PA's Abbas slams Egypt for receiving Hamas leader

Published Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has formally protested a decision by Egypt's prime minister to receive Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

"The Palestinian leadership and president Abbas are conducting contacts with the Egyptian leadership over the meeting between Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya," Saleh Raafat told the official Voice of Palestine radio station.

Haniya, who serves as prime minister at the head of Hamas's government in the Gaza Strip, met with Qandil in Cairo on Monday evening.

Raafat, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank was seeking "Egyptian clarification on the meeting, particularly as Haniya has no official status."

The West Bank and Gaza have been under divided Palestinian rule since 2007, when long-standing animosity between Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas boiled over into violence some 18 months after the Islamist group won a surprise electoral victory.

After fierce fighting, Hamas claimed control of Gaza, with Fatah retreating to the West Bank. Rival governments operate in the two territories, with Haniya heading the Gaza government, and Salam Fayyad holding the same post in the West Bank.

There have been no elections since 2006, and Abbas has remained in the office of president despite the official expiry of his term in 2009.

Raafat said Abbas had personally sent a letter to Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi on Tuesday, through Egypt's ambassador to the Palestinian territories.

The letter "included a protest and called officially on the Egyptian government not to deal with Haniya as prime minister," Raafat said.

He said Abbas would meet soon with Mursi, without saying when, to "discuss the matter."

In a statement, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri slammed Abbas and his government, accusing them of trying to impose a "political siege" on the movement under the banner of "unified Palestinian representation."

"Hamas stresses that Mahmud Abbas does not have any right to talk about unified Palestinian representation, given that his legal term expired more than three years ago," Abu Zuhri said.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal last year in Egypt, but implementation of the agreement stalled over the formation of an interim government of independents.

(AFP)

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