Abbas bids for EU backing for unity accord with Hamas

PA head tells diplomats deal will boost peace chances; New reports say he won’t run again for president.

PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
The Palestinian Authority over the weekend launched a diplomatic campaign aimed at persuading the international community to support the Hamas-Fatah unity deal that was reached in Cairo last week.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal are expected to sign the formal Egyptian-sponsored accord in Cairo on Wednesday, sources close to the two parties said.
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Abbas, in a message to the EU, said the interim government that would be established by Hamas and Fatah would deal only with preparing for the next presidential and parliamentary election, and rebuilding the Gaza Strip.
Abbas emphasized that the PA government would not be in charge of negotiations with Israel or other political issues.
He said that he and the PLO would maintain responsibility for the peace process with Israel and the PA’s external relations.
Abbas urged the EU leadership to support the prospective Hamas-Fatah government. He also voiced opposition to any attempt by the EU to demand that the new government recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“Recognizing the State of Israel and negotiating with it is in the authority of the PLO, which has already recognized Israel,” Abbas said in his message.
He told a number of foreign diplomats who met with him in his office in Ramallah over the weekend that the unity agreement would enhance the chances for peace in the Middle East.
Abbas assured them that the unity government would not be authorized to deal with diplomatic matters, such as the peace talks with Israel. Instead, he said, the government would focus only on two issues: rebuilding the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead and preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections.
The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper quoted sources close to the PA president as saying he had decided not to seek reelection.
“President Abbas won’t be one of the candidates in the presidential election,” the sources said, adding that he had asked Fatah leaders to search for another candidate.