Abbas rejects dialogue with Hamas

Repeats demand that Hamas relinquish control of Gaza, seemingly rejecting Mubarak's mediation offer.

Abbas Mashaal 2 298. (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Mashaal 2 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday stuck to his tough conditions for resuming contacts with Hamas, despite attempts by Egypt to bring the rivals together to solve the growing chaos on the Gaza-Egypt border. In a speech Saturday, Abbas denounced the Hamas takeover of Gaza as a "crime" and said the group must reverse these steps if it wants to resume talks with him. On Friday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had offered to host talks between rival Palestinian Fatah and Hamas leaders, in an apparent effort to raise his country's role as Mideast peace broker and ease the pressure following the influx of Gazans into Egypt from the Hamas-controlled Strip. In an interview for Saturday's edition of the Egyptian weekly al-Osboa, Mubarak said he wants peace between the Palestinians. "I want this language of violence to stop," Mubarak was quoted as saying by the state MENA news agency. "Peace can be achieved on the basis of international resolutions and agreements that demand the establishment of Palestinian state." Hamas appeared eager to accept the offer. Ayman Taha, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Al-Jazeera TV that Hamas's supreme leader, the Syria-based Khaled Mashaal, was ready to accept Mubarak's invitation to an "unconditional dialogue." "We as Hamas have nothing against sitting in Egypt for dialogue to end all our differences with our brothers in Fatah," Taha told Al-Arabiya, another pan-Arab satellite channel. But Abbas's representative in Egypt, Nabil Shaath, said Abbas's position was clear: Fatah was "always ready for dialogue," but what was important was the result of such talks. And a result cannot be achieved "unless Hamas announces its readiness to let go of military control" of Gaza, he said. Shaath also said Abbas would head to Egypt after meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday to talk more about Mubarak's offer. The offer came as Egypt was enduring an influx of hundreds of thousands of Gazans through its border with Gaza Strip which began Wednesday, when Hamas members blew up segments of the border wall separating the area from Egypt. The breach climaxed a week of Gazans' discontent after Israel imposed a blockade on the Strip, stopping shipments of fuel, medicine and food. Israel has also been carrying out air strikes and limited ground operations against Gazan terrorists who are launching attacks on Israel. Egypt has failed to stem the flow of Gazans or manage the chaotic border situation, despite deploying reinforcement. Egypt has long feared the instability in the Hamas-controlled Gaza could spill over into Egypt, and has been distancing itself from Hamas. The last time Hamas and Fatah met for talks in Cairo was in February 2005. Earlier this month, Hamas Premier Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza called for talks with Egypt and Fatah, to work out a new shared arrangement for Gaza's border crossings. At the time, Haniyeh suggested Hamas would be prepared to cede some control to the Abbas government in the West Bank. In Syria Friday, radical Palestinian factions called on the two rival Palestinian groups to begin dialogue and end their power struggle. A statement at the end of the three-day National Palestinian Conference of factions opposed to peace with Israel stressed the need for Palestinians to unite in the face of the worsening Gaza situation, which they ascribed to Israel's siege. Dialogue is the "only way to solve inter-Palestinian differences," the groups said.