Abbas aides fan out to sell unity deal

Meanwhile, Hamas reiterates that it has no intention to recognize Israel.

Abbas mecca 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas mecca 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian leaders fanned out across the world Saturday in a diplomatic blitz aimed at convincing reticent world leaders to support their hard-won power-sharing deal by lifting economic sanctions on their government. The envoys may have a hard sell. Western governments and Israel have given only muted reactions to the agreement signed Thursday by Hamas and Fatah leaders in the holy Saudi city of Mecca. International leaders said they would have to first study the deal and see how it changes the situation on the ground, dashing hopes for a quick end to the sanctions.
  • Islamic Jihad to support new PA gov't
  • Livni: PA gov't must recognize Israel Meanwhile, Hamas representatives maintained on Saturday that the group had no intention of formally recognizing Israel. Speaking in Gaza, Ahmed Yosef, spokesperson for Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said the issue was not part of the deliberations in Mecca and would not be become a policy of the new unity government, despite pressure from the United States and the Quartet. The Quartet of Mideast mediators - the US, the UN, Russia and the European Union - had demanded that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept past peace deals. The Mecca deal says only that the new government pledges to "respect" the previous deals. It makes no reference to recognizing Israel or renouncing violence and appears to fall short of the Quartet's demands. Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who pushed for a deal for months, is hoping that personal diplomacy with every member of the Quartet will build momentum for his cause to end the embargo imposed on the Palestinian Authority after Hamas' election. The embargo has frozen roughly US$1 billion (€800 million) in annual foreign aid and about US$500 million (€400 million) in tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians. "We are trying to market the (Mecca) agreement and get international support for it," Abbas aide Nabil Amr said Saturday. Abbas is sending Amr to Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, for talks on the agreement. Amr will then head to Belgium to meet with Javier Solana, the EU's chief foreign policy envoy, Amr said. "We urge the officials in Europe to exert efforts to lift the siege imposed on the government," he said. Abbas, who has held rounds of telephone talks with Arab leaders in recent days to try to rally them to his side, will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Jordan on Monday, Amr said. Abbas also plans to head to Egypt for talks before returning to the West Bank. On Friday, soon after the deal was reached, Abbas aides Saeb Erekat and Yasser Abed Rabbo met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington before heading to New York for a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Abed Rabbo said Rice told him the agreement was unclear on key issues and she was skeptical Hamas would abide by it, but she would wait to see how it was carried out on the ground. America wanted the new government to stop Gaza terrorists from launching rockets at Israel, prevent other attacks and respect previously signed agreements, he said. "The Americans are worried that Hamas will not succeed in this test," he said. Some analysts said the United States was waiting for Israel to decide how to react to the agreement before it would decide what to do. Israel said it would not have an official response until its weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday. Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman told the German weekly Der Spiegel that he feared Hamas could be rewarded for the agreement, even though it did not give in to the international demands to moderate itself. "I am worried that a Palestinian government of national unity will give Hamas the international legitimacy that it so far has lacked - without it recognizing Israel or ending the tactics of terror against us," he was quoted as saying in an interview published Saturday. Hamas, listed as a terror group by Israel, the United States and the EU, is responsible for scores of deadly suicide bombings in Israel. Previous efforts to form a national unity government have foundered, though none have ever come this far. Still, there were fears that the new deal could unravel in coming weeks as the two sides choose ministers for the government. Though Haniyeh has five weeks to put together a Cabinet, Abbas wants him to finish the job as soon as possible, hopefully within a week, Amr said. "There are not a lot of issues to discuss because the main issues were agreed to in Mecca," he said. It was also not clear whether Hamas and Fatah militants, whose running street battles in Gaza have killed over 130 people since May, will abide by the deal.