Mashaal: Hamas ready for dialogue with PA

PA president Abbas says only dialog with Hamas will improve the situation in the Gaza Strip.

osama hamdan 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
osama hamdan 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas is ready for a national Palestinian dialogue that will achieve reconciliation and preserve national rights, the group's leader Khaled Mashaal was quoted as saying Monday. Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, said Hamas's exiled leader made his comments during a meeting Monday with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. Later in the day, Hamas issued a statement quoting Mashaal as saying that the group "is ready to participate in any direct dialogue [with Fatah] at one table under Arab umbrella if dialogue was without preconditions." Hamas' statement said that Mashaal briefed al-Moallem on efforts and contacts under way to launch inter-Palestinian dialogue. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said earlier in the day that he opposes an Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. "Only dialogue between Fatah and Hamas will lead to improvement in Gaza," Abbas told the Al-Jazeera news network following his meeting with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo. The three men discussed recent developments in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and the renewal of contact between quarreling Palestinian factions. Abbas arrived in Cairo late Sunday night, and met with Mubarak to provide an update on the status of talks between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and the Hamas leadership, and to discuss with the Egyptian leader the cease-fire negotiations between Hamas and Israel. His visit to Egypt followed a stopover in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia on Sunday, where the PA president spoke with Saudi King Abdullah on ways of ending the Fatah-Hamas dispute, and offered a briefing on the latest developments surrounding the peace process with Israel. Officials in Ramallah said over the weekend that Abbas was planning to visit several other Arab countries in the coming days in a bid to win their backing for his latest initiative to end the Fatah-Hamas power struggle. Meanwhile, a top Hamas official said on Sunday that the Islamic group and Fatah failed to reach a breakthrough in reconciliation talks held in Senegal. Representatives from the two sides met separately with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade in Dakar to try and resolve the dispute. Osama Hamdan, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, told Al-Jazeera that no real progress was made in the extensive talks. Nevertheless, the Senegalese government said in a statement that representatives of both groups were "direct and fraternal" in the first of seven planned rounds of talks in Dakar. The statement did not provide further details. Wade pledged at a March summit of Islamic states held in the West African capital that he would undertake to mediate between the groups. Last week Abbas announced that he would launch unconditional talks with Hamas out of concern for the "unity of the Palestinian people and their homeland." The announcement came as a surprise to many, particularly since Abbas had refused to negotiate with Hamas unless the movement gave up control of the Gaza Strip. Abbas spoke over the weekend by phone with Mubarak and asked for help in persuading Hamas to resume talks with Fatah. Sources close to Abbas said Mubarak, who welcomed the PA leader's initiative, offered to host any talks between the two Palestinian movements. Egyptian diplomats based in Ramallah were expected to meet with Hamas representatives on Sunday to discuss Abbas's reconciliation initiative and efforts to achieve a cease-fire with Israel. Hamas, which has welcomed the call for resuming talks with Fatah, said it was prepared to send representatives to Cairo as soon as they received an invitation from the Egyptians. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh phoned Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman over the weekend and urged him to work harder toward achieving a truce with Israel and solving the crisis with Fatah, sources close to Haniyeh said. They added that Haniyeh also appealed to Suleiman to reopen the Rafah border crossing to Sinai so that Gazans would be able to travel. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa phoned Haniyeh and expressed a willingness to host the Fatah-Hamas talks. Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said his movement was prepared to meet with Fatah representatives at any time and place. He also called on the PA to release hundreds of Hamas supporters who are being held in PA jails in the West Bank. Abbas's office instructed the PA-controlled media to stop attacks on Hamas as part of an effort to ease tensions between the two sides. In response, Haniyeh ordered the Hamas-run media to stop attacks on Fatah.