Abbas to visit Cairo for Palestinian reconciliation talks

Ramallah, Jan 5 (IANS) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Egypt next Wednesday to discuss resuming talks with Islamic Hamas movement for achieving internal reconciliation and ending division between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Palestinian officials said Saturday.

Abbas' office said in a press statement that Abbas told Egypt's ambassador to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) during a meeting held in Ramallah that he is looking forward to meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, reported Xinhua.

Well-informed official Palestinian sources said that the meeting between Abbas and Morsi would tackle the efforts of seeking reconciliation between Fatah and its rival Hamas which had been ruling the Gaza Strip since its violent takeover of the enclave in 2007.

The sources said that Abbas reiterated to the Egyptian ambassador that Fatah is concerned about implementation the understandings and agreements reached in Cairo and Qatar, adding that Abbas refused any new initiatives to be added to the signed understandings.

The sources told Xinhua that Abbas asked the Egyptian ambassador to exert more pressure on Hamas to immediately implement those understandings and prepare the atmosphere for holding general elections.

Abbas' planned visit to Cairo comes amid positive signs of ending the division between the two rival groups.

Fatah allowed Hamas celebrate its 25th anniversary in December 2012, while Hamas let Fatah mark its 48-year anniversary on Friday. The Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are waiting for more practical steps toward unity.

Jamal Muheisen, a member of Fatah Central Committee, told Xinhua that the huge turnout of Fatah supporters in the rally held in Gaza on Friday "sent a clear message to Hamas movement... (and) should lead to pushing forward the principle of ending division without postponement."

Earlier Saturday, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas government in Gaza, called for active meetings with rival Fatah to resume unity discussions. "I call for serious meetings to achieve strong and unbreakable national unity," Haneya said in a press statement.

Commenting on the Fatah celebration of its 48th anniversary in Gaza Friday, Haniyeh said his government wanted to use this event to achieve unity based on protecting national principles, political partnership and social forgiveness. He spoke with Abbas via telephone on Friday.

Meanwhile, Salah el-Bardaweel, member of Hamas politburo, told Xinhua that the large number of Fatah supporters in Gaza "is not in our consideration. What we so much concerned about is the behaviour and the political programmes of Fatah. We want to agree on a joint national programme to liberate our occupied lands, but unfortunately Fatah hasn't presented anything concerning this principle."

Hamas leaders slammed the Fatah organizers of the rally, accusing that they didn't mention anything about armed resistance against Israeli occupation, and that they didn't withdraw from " humiliating" peace agreements signed between Fatah and Israel.

However, Abbas delivered a speech to the rally which was also aired on Palestine Television. "There is no alternative to unity, reconciliation and ending the bitter division," Abbas said. "I will be in Gaza soon to shake your hands one by one."

Al-Bardaweel, however, said there are no practical steps by Abbas or his Fatah toward ending division, adding that "Hamas activities in the West Bank are still restricted, and the arrests against its members and activists are still going on."

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