Egypt urging Saudis to push PA-Hamas plan

Initiative would allow Hamas gov't to oversee Gaza reconstruction under supervision of "higher c'tee."

Saudi King Abdullah 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Saudi King Abdullah 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Egypt has asked Saudi Arabia to exert pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept an Egyptian initiative for solving the continued dispute between Hamas and Fatah, a PA official in Ramallah said. The official said that King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia had urged Abbas to accept the Egyptian proposal during a meeting between the two in Riyadh on Sunday. Abbas was invited to Riyadh only days after the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Service, Gen. Omar Suleiman, visited the Saudi capital with a message from President Hosni Mubarak to the Saudi monarch. Abbas was accompanied by PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad in what was seen by some Palestinians as a sign of rapprochement between the two men, who were believed to be at odds for several months. Last Thursday, Abbas met in Cairo with Mubarak, who briefed him on the details of the new initiative. It calls for the establishment of a "higher committee" comprising representatives of all Palestinian factions that would be entrusted with coordinating between the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The initiative, according to sources close to Abbas, would allow the Hamas government to oversee the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip under the supervision of that committee. Abbas is opposed to the initiative mainly because it does not require the Hamas government to accept the conditions of the Quartet, namely recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing terrorism and accepting all previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. "The Egyptians are hoping that the Saudis [will] convince President Abbas to take a positive response toward the initiative," the PA official said. "But we have several reservations regarding this initiative." The official said the PA was also opposed to giving Hamas any major role in the reconstruction work in the Gaza Strip. "There's only one legitimate government, and that's the government of Prime Minister Salaam Fayad," he stressed. "Hamas is welcome to help in the reconstruction, but they should do so only in the frame[work] of the legitimate government and not as a separate governing body." Hamas representatives said they were studying the initiative. Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas legislator who participated in the recent Hamas-Fatah negotiations in Cairo, said that the Egyptians had presented the plan after concluding that the two parties wouldn't be able to reach an agreement on forming a unity government. He said Hamas was not fully satisfied with the initiative because it authorized Abbas to form a new government without consulting the Islamic movement. According to Bardaweel, the Egyptian proposal calls for the formation of a temporary Hamas-Fatah committee that would seek ways of ending the dispute between the two sides. He added that the committee would be entrusted with supervising the Gaza reconstruction separately from the governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He added that the Egyptians had informed Hamas and Fatah that the reconciliation talks, which were suspended earlier this month after the two parties failed to reach an agreement, would be resumed at the end of April in Cairo.