Palestinians Sign Unity Deal
CAIRO – Rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas signed Wednesday, May 3, an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal to heal a four-year feud.”We announce to Palestinians that we turn forever the black page of division,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in his opening address cited by Reuters.
“We announce the good news from Egypt which has always carried its national and historical responsibility towards the Palestinian people.“Four black years have affected the interests of Palestinians. Now we meet to assert a unified will,” added the Fatah leader
The Egyptian-brokered deal calls for forming an interim government to run the occupied West Bank, where Abbas is based, and Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. It also calls for preparing for parliamentary and presidential elections within a year.
The deal was signed on behalf of Fatah by Azzam al-Ahmad and for Hamas by Mousa Abu Marzouk. The signing ceremony was briefly delayed over where Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal should sit.
Palestinian sources said the dispute was over whether Meshaal should sit on the podium with Abbas or among other Palestinian delegates in the hall.
“This is an historical moment documenting the real will of the Palestinian people,” Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi said.
“The people have taken a step to retrieve its unity.”
Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since the Islamic resistance group won the parliamentary elections in 2006.
Their differences escalated into a deadly fighting in 2007 that resulted in Hamas taking control of Gaza.
Two years of Egyptian mediation under ousted president Hosni Mubarak to try to heal the rift between Hamas and the more secular Fatah have failed.
Hamas leader Meshaal welcomed the unity deal to unify Palestinian ranks and end the decades-long Israeli occupation.
“We have decided to pay any price so that reconciliation is achieved,” Meshaal told the ceremony as cited by Reuters.
“Our real fight is with the Israeli occupier, not Palestinian factions and sons of the one nation.”
Meshaal called for establishing a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) as its capital.
“Our aim is to establish a free and completely sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whose capital is Jerusalem, without any settlers and without giving up a single inch of land and without giving up on the right of return (of Palestinian refugees).”
Hamas and Fatah leaders will meet next week on implementing their Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal.
“We will have a meeting with President Abu Mazen (Abbas) next week, possibly in Cairo to kick-start the procedures for the reconciliation,” Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said.
In his speech, Abbas repeated his call for a halt to Jewish settlement construction as a condition for resuming peace talks with Israel that began in September but fizzled within weeks after it refused to extend a limited building moratorium.
“The state of Palestine must be born this year,” he said.
Abbas is widely expected, in the absence of peace talks, to ask the UN General Assembly in September to recognize a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel and the United States have warned the Palestinians against the move.
Palestinians view reconciliation as an essential step toward presenting a common front at the United Nations and a reflection of a deep-seated public desire to end the internal schism amid popular revolts that have swept the Arab world.
But the deal presents potential diplomatic problems for Abbas’s aid-dependent Palestinian Authority.
The signing ceremony was attended by representatives from the Arab League, Qatar, Oman and Arab members of the Israeli parliament.”The Arab League will have a role in the follow-up with the Palestinians on the reconciliation process to ensure the process unfolds in due course,” League spokesman Hisham Youssef said.