'Tunisian president delays visit at Abbas's behest'

Ma'an news agency reports Moncef Marzouki postponed his visit to Gaza till March after talks with Abbas at African Union summit.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas arrives in Tunisia 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas arrives in Tunisia 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Sunday announced he has postponed his visit to the Gaza Strip until March, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
According to the report, the Tunisian president decided to postpone the visit following talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
"The decision to postpone the visit until the end of March aims to allow the path of reconciliation to progress," Ma'an quoted the Tunisian president's office as saying.
The Palestinian Authority had been trying to persuade Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki to cancel a planned visit to the Gaza Strip, a PA official in Ramallah said on Saturday.
The official said that the PA leadership has made it clear to the Tunisian government that it is strongly opposed to Marzouki’s visit, which is scheduled for next month.
“We have warned the Tunisians that the visit would solidify divisions among the Palestinians and undermine Palestinian representation,” the official added.
The PA fears that such visits would bolster Hamas’s stance among Palestinians and give legitimacy to its control over the Gaza Strip.
Last week, the PA leadership condemned a visit to the Gaza Strip by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and last October, PA officials also expressed outrage over the visit to the Gaza Strip of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
Mahmoud Habbash, PA minister for religious affairs, issued a stern warning on Friday to world leaders planning to visit the Gaza Strip.
“We want to tell all our friends and brothers: Don’t try to play the chord of Palestinian division,” he said, referring to the Tunisian president’s upcoming visit.
“Our people have trampled on all those who tried to play the chord of division and dissidence.”
Habbash, in a sermon delivered in Ramallah during Friday prayers, said that all previous attempts to undermine the PLO’s status as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians had failed.
“We will stand against any Arab or Muslim leader who goes to the Gaza Strip with the goal of deepening Palestinian divisions,” he cautioned. “Anyone who wants to go to the Gaza Strip to express solidarity with our people should pass through only one gate – that of the PLO, the State of Palestine and its president.”
The PA would like Arab leaders and government officials to visit Ramallah. The only Arab leader to visit Ramallah in the past few weeks was Jordan’s King Abdullah, who came to congratulate PA President Mahmoud Abbas on the UN General Assembly’s vote in favor of upgrading the Palestinians’ status to nonmember observer state.
/>Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.