Abbas turns to Egypt to salvage unity

Top Fatah official: "We're not asking Hamas to recognize Israel."

September 27, 2006 05:14
3 minute read.
Abbas turns to Egypt to salvage unity

Abbas haniyeh 298. (photo credit: AP [file])


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Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hold talks in Cairo on Wednesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the ongoing crisis with Hamas over the formation of a Palestinian unity government, PA officials here said Tuesday. Abbas's surprise visit to Cairo comes amid increased tensions between his Fatah party and Hamas over the proposed coalition and its political program. Earlier this week, Abbas called off a planned meeting in Gaza City with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. The two were supposed to try formulating a political program that would win the backing of the international community and ensure a resumption of aid to the PA. Sources close to Abbas said he might meet with Haniyeh after he returns from Egypt later this week. "President Abbas will seek Mubarak's support for the unity government with Hamas," a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. "He will also ask Mubarak to use his influence to persuade Hamas to soften its stance regarding the unity government's political agenda." Abbas's media adviser Nabil Abu Rudaineh said it was time for Hamas to take a "clear and frank position regarding the agreement that was reached earlier this month on the establishment of a national unity government." Meanwhile, Abbas met with MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor) Tuesday and told him that negotiations to release Cpl. Gilad Shalit had bogged down. Abbas blamed the impasse on Hamas's Khaled Mashaal, Channel 2 reported. The dispute between Fatah and Hamas centers on Abbas's demand that a unity government abide by all agreements signed with Israel and accept the 2002 Arab League peace initiative and Security Council resolutions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "We want to see clear statements from Hamas, not contradictory remarks," Abu Rudaineh said. "We want to know their real position regarding the Arab peace plan and the agreements that were signed between the PLO and Israel." He confirmed that efforts to establish a Hamas-Fatah government had reached a dead end and denied that Abbas was asking Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. "We're not asking Hamas to recognize Israel," Abu Rudaineh said. "All we're saying is that they must honor all the previous agreements [with Israel] so that we could end the international sanctions that are imposed on the Palestinians." Nabil Amr, a former PA minister who serves as a close adviser to Abbas, accused Hamas of employing "double-talk" in its dealings with the PA chairman. He said that while Haniyeh was talking with Abbas using a "lenient and moderate tone," other Hamas leaders were employing harsh language and making scathing attacks on the PA chairman. "Some Hamas leaders apparently don't want Abbas to meet with Haniyeh," Amr said in a reference to Hamas officials based in Syria and Lebanon. He also accused Hamas leaders of embarrassing Abbas during his last visit to New York by issuing radical statements in which they stressed that they would never recognize Israel. Yasser Abed Rabbo, another former PA minister who is close to Abbas, said he did not rule out the possibility that Abbas would eventually dismiss the Hamas-led government and the Palestinian Legislative Council and call elections. "If Hamas continues to stick to its current policies, there will be no alternative but to call early elections," he said. "Hamas is acting as if the Palestinians were a superpower that could turn its back on the rest of the world. Hamas must accept all the agreements that were signed by the PLO or face the destructive consequences of its policies." In Gaza City, PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar reiterated Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel and to honor agreements reached with Israel. "The position of the government is very clear and it's based on the political program according to which it was elected," he told reporters. "Any change in our position would be unacceptable and unreasonable."

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