Abbas: Israel used Fatah-Hamas division to 'evade peace'

Dispute over Mashaal's seat delays signing of document calling for elections in one year, cooperation with PLO, and non-political security committee; three Arab MKs attend signing ceremony.

mashaal moussa 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
mashaal moussa 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, and senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal were in Cairo on Wednesday to endorse a deal to end a four-year rift but a last minute hitch cast doubt on the durability of the accord.
The ceremony was delayed by a disagreement over protocol shortly before it began over whether Mashaal should sit on the podium with Abbas or down among other Palestinian delegates in the hall.
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In the end, it was reportedly decided that Mashaal would give a speech, but would not sit on the stage with Abbas
At the ceremony, Abbas said: "We announce to Palestinians that we turn forever the black page of division."
"We announce the good news from Egypt, which has always carried its national and historical responsibility towards the Palestinian people. Four black years have affected the interests of Palestinians. Now we meet to assert a unified will," he said.
"Israel must choose between peace and settlements," he added. "Israel used the split between Hamas and Fatah as an excuse to evade its obligations towards the peace process."
Ramallah-based website Palestine Monitor claimed to have a text of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement, which called for elections in one year, cooperation with the PLO, and the formation of a Higher Security Committee made up of agreed-upon professional officers.
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas spokesman, said all Palestinian factions and independent Palestinian politicians met in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the agreement, brokered by Egypt and initialed last week.
“[After] all the factions [have] signed today and tomorrow, we will celebrate the reconciliation under Egyptian patronage,” he told Reuters.
A day before the reconciliation gathering in the Egyptian capital, smaller Palestinian factions signed a reconciliation deal on Tuesday to show their backing for the rapprochement.
MKs Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta'al), Taleb a-Sanaa (UAL-Ta'al) and Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) participated in the signing ceremony, after being invited by the Egyptian government.
The three said in a statement on Wednesday that the invitation came in honor of their efforts to mediate between the two Palestinian factions. It is unclear whether the Knesset members were set to actively participate in the signing ceremony, or just to observe.
"This is a reconciliation agreement that reunites the Palestinian people," Tibi explained to Army Radio. "I need to be here and I'm proud to be here. Anything else would be abnormal."
Diplomats said foreign and Arab dignitaries, including EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, were also invited to the ceremony.
However, a press officer at the EU mission in Cairo said Ashton was in New York, and therefore unable to attend.