x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Cairo-led talks to focus on Palestinian reconciliation

Latest efforts to foster an end to the feud between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah is scheduled for tonight.

AMMAN // Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is scheduled to hold talks tonight with Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, that would focus on the latest reconciliation efforts led by Cairo to end the bitter struggle between Hamas and Fatah, Mr Abbas's party. "The [national] dialogue will be at the centre of the talks," Atta Kheiri, the Palestinian ambassador to Jordan, said. King Abdullah of Jordan is also scheduled to meet with Mr Suleiman and the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abu Gheit, to discuss recent Middle Eastern developments. The scheduled meetings come as Cairo tries to hammer out a final reconciliation draft, which focuses on the security situation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the creation of a multifaction committee to oversee preparations for new elections, and the freeing of political prisoners held by both parties. Cairo wants to hold a national unity dialogue for all Palestinian factions this month to pave the way for signing a reconciliation pact between Hamas and Fatah. No specific date has been set for signing the Egyptian-proposed accord, which Hamas tentatively approved last week. Mr Abbas has visited Cairo recently and held talks with Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president. "We want to see what the Egyptians have in store for us with regards to the dialogue. "As mediators, they also have the answers from Hamas as to when the elections will be held and if they will be delayed," Mr Kheiri said. Some analysts said they are optimistic that Hamas and Fatah will reach an agreement, but question whether it will be actually implemented. "Recent developments have shown that Hamas and Fatah are prepared to accept the latest Egyptian proposal. "And it seems that Abbas will be the odd man out, which explains why Omar Suleiman wants to see him personally in Amman," said Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst and a contributing editor at Middle East Report. "It is increasingly likely that an agreement will be reached, but the extent to which such an agreement will be implemented is questioned." Jordan hopes that the national reconciliation pact will mend the rift between Hamas and Fatah and strengthen the position of the Palestinian side in peace negotiations with Israel. "We hope that a national Palestinian reconciliation takes place as it will strengthen the position of the Palestinian negotiator," Nasser Judeh, the Jordanian foreign minister, told Jordan TV on Friday night. "This will not give Israel the pretext to say that there is no Palestinian partner that represents all Palestinians." Jordan advocates peace efforts with Israel based on a two-state solution and is banking on the Obama administration in the United States to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and bring about peace and stability in the region, but remains deeply disappointed with Israel's intransigence over the peace process. "It is important to take advantage of this opportunity - Arab countries are committed to peace under the 2002 Arab peace initiative that was endorsed at a Beirut summit and was reiterated further in successive Arab summits," Mr Judeh said. He said that it is Israel that is hindering the peace efforts. "Settlements and peace contradict each other. Settlements violate international law and they are illegitimate." Recent US administration efforts to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have not yielded any tangible results. "Jordan does not want to see the opportunity of peace, under US pressure, wasted. There has never been such an opportunity, not under eight years of the Bush administration and neither under Clinton's," said Nabeel Gheishan, an editor and columnist with Arab Alyawm, an independent daily newspaper based in Amman. Israel's continued rejection of the two-state solution, a resolution that has the support of Arab states, the US administration and the international community, casts a dark shadow on Jordan and poses a threat to the sovereignty of the country, where 50 per cent of the population are of Palestinian origin. "The Jordanians are taking the Obama administration seriously and they seem to genuinely believe that [the US president] is determined to come up with a new diplomatic initiative. "Therefore, the key consideration for Jordan is that a Palestinian leadership needs to be in a position to engage with such an American initiative," Mr Rabbani said. "Jordan has this perennial fear that it is going to end up being a victim of instability. Jordan may have shifted its position. It has supported Abu Mazen [Mr Abbas], who is getting weaker and weaker. "But he is now not in a position to rout Hamas. "The Jordanian policy is now more interested in Palestinian stability." smaayeh@thenational.ae