Zahar threatens to cut ties with some 'rebellious' PA embassies abroad

Says several Palestinian embassies openly defying his instructions under pressure from Abbas's office.

A-zahar close up 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
A-zahar close up 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar threatened over the weekend to cut ties with several Palestinian embassies that are refusing to obey his instructions. "We will sever financial and administrative relations with all rebellious embassies," he told reporters in Gaza City. Zahar's threat is yet another sign of the ongoing power struggle between PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas. Tensions between the two sides peaked last week when Abbas dispatched three senior officials to a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. The three, Saeb Erekat, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Farouk Kaddoumi, participated in the meeting as representatives of the PA - a move that enraged Zahar and his top aides at the PA Foreign Ministry. Zahar, who has rarely been seen in public since the abduction in June of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, accused Abbas of seeking to undermine the Hamas-controlled government. "These people don't represent the Palestinian government because they were not sent by the Foreign Ministry," Zahar said. "We are facing repeated attempts to sideline the Foreign Ministry and this is in violation of the Palestinian Basic Law and the decisions of the Palestinian Legislative Council." Zahar revealed that several Palestinian embassies were openly defying his instructions under pressure from Abbas's office. He also complained that the Foreign Ministry's branch in Ramallah was functioning independently under the leadership of Fatah-affiliated ministry officials. He quoted some of the officials as telling him that "it was a joke that someone like you should serve as the Palestinian Foreign Minister." The dispute over who is entitled to serve as PA foreign minister began long before Zahar and his Hamas government came to power. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunis, has long claimed that he was the only foreign minister since he is the director of the PLO's Political Department. On several occasions, he even publicly challenged Abbas's right to appoint a foreign minister. But after Zahar wa appointed, Abbas and Kaddoumi patched up their differences and agreed to work together to prevent the Hamas government from dealing with foreign affairs. Last month Abbas issued a "presidential decree" declaring Kaddoumi the sole Palestinian foreign minister. The appointment of Kaddoumi drew sharp criticism from the Hamas government, whose representatives accused Abbas of staging a coup against Zahar and his foreign ministry. Last week the Gaza-based Zahar complained that PA Foreign Ministry officials in Ramallah were inciting against him. He further hinted that the officials were responsible for a stone-throwing attack on his vehicle during a visit to Jabalya refugee camp. In response to Zahar's allegations, PA ambassador to Cairo Munzir Dajani said that Zahar was the "foreign minister only inside the Palestinian territories." He added, "The real Palestinian foreign minister is Farouk Kaddoumi. Zahar is not authorized to represent the Palestinians abroad. He's only a foreign minister for internal affairs." According to Dajani, Abbas alone has the power to decide who should represent the Palestinians at meetings and conferences abroad. Abed Rabbo, for his part, said that Zahar was not entitled to represent the Palestinians although he was appointed foreign minister. "His main job is to run the affairs of his ministry," he said. "Although he's a foreign minister, he's not authorized to deal with foreign affairs. He should only deal with administrative issues."