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PNA PM Abbas Resumes Inter-Palestinian Dialogue

PM Abbas Resumes Inter-Palestinian Dialogue, FM Shaath Optimistic


National, Islamic Factions Insist on Guarantees to Secure Demands


Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) continues an intensified inter-Palestinian dialogue in Gaza and is expected to meet with the US envoy John Wolf Tuesday, ahead of a possible visit Friday by the US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell could visit Israel on Friday to add more weight to US mediation attempts between Palestinians and Israelis, unconfirmed media reports quoted a senior US official as saying in Washington on Monday.

Israel’s Army Radio reported that Wolf met Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday night, and will meet Abbas in Gaza Tuesday, where the Palestinian premier is also holding meetings with leaders of Hamas and other factions in a bid to secure calm.

In a meeting Monday in Gaza with leaders of Fatah movement, Abbas stressed his adherence to national dialogue as the basis for achieving Palestinian national unity.

He was reported to confirm his adherence to demands presented to him by Fatah leaders.

Ending the siege imposed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on President Yasser Arafat, stopping the Israeli extra-judicial assassinations and military incursions, withdrawal of IOF from Palestinian territory reoccupied since September 2000, and securing the release of all Palestinian detainees in IOF prisons should top Abu Mazen’s priorities, Fatah’s Higher Committee member Samir Al-Mashharawi said.

Securing these demands are the guarantees for an “honorable” truce, Al-Mashharawi added.

Abu Mazen has yet to meet with the leaders of the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas.”

Hamas announced early Tuesday they were considering an invitation for a separate meeting with the Palestinian PM, who is scheduled also to meet with other Palestinian groups and factions.

Shaath: ‘Total Ceasefire’ Could Be Announced Soon

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) foreign minister Nabil Shaath had fueled hopes earlier by saying a “total ceasefire” could be announced as early as Tuesday, coupled by an Israeli pullout from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Shaath said on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg that “we are expecting (from Hamas) a commitment to a total ceasefire. This might be accompanied by a full return of Gaza and other areas of the West Bank to Palestinian security jurisdiction,” he said.

“I hope that we will get their answer maybe tomorrow,” he added.

Serious negotiations were underway to that end, he said, but declined to comment extensively, saying the talks were delicate.

"We are undergoing serious negotiations with Hamas with the help of our Egyptian brothers, so therefore we would certainly not like to discuss now anything that could negatively effect that effort," Shaath said.

The minister added that the PNA could only resume jurisdiction over Gaza and the West Bank with commitment from both Israel and Hamas.

"We cannot take that jurisdiction without a full commitment from Hamas and therefore also a full commitment from Israel," he said.

But Shaath said Israelis also must "accept their responsibility to end assassinations, killing, destruction and incursions" in the West Bank and Gaza.

The PNA described the inter-Palestinian dialogue as a “complicated job.”

“It's a complicated job and we have to have a comprehensive agreement not just with Hamas, but with Islamic Jihad, Fatah and many other factions,'' said PNA Minister of Culture Ziyad Abu Amer, who was authorized by Abu Mazen’s government to be in charge of conducting this dialogue.

Egyptian Mediators to Continue Mission ‘Abroad’

Separately, an Egyptian team of mediators concluded on Monday a two-day series of meetings with Palestinian national and Islamic groups, without announcing a breakthrough.

Media reports on Tuesday said the Egyptian mediators were planning follow-up meetings with Hamas leaders “abroad.”

Mohammad al-Hindi, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad movement, said that in the meetings with the Egyptian team “there was no ceasefire proposal but only ideas within the framework of the Palestinian dialogue to confirm the right to resist occupation."

However, participants said Hamas and Jihad reiterated their willingness to stop attacks inside Israel only if the IOF halted their incursions and extra-judicial assassinations.

Ahmad Hellis, secretary general of the Fatah in the Gaza Strip, said the parties discussed ending "some types of resistance" on condition that Israel halted its aggression and released prisoners.

"We confirmed (to Egyptian mediators) that resistance was the right of the people," said Hellis, whose mainstream Fatah party, dominates the Palestinian government.

Representatives of Hamas and other groups said they had demanded international guarantees for a halt to Israeli military strikes on Palestinian civilians and political activists before they would agree to stop their own attacks on Israelis.

"The resistance will continue until the enemy responds to our people's demands," wheelchair-bound Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said.

Media reports quoted sources close to the talks as saying that US mediators would press Israel to agree to end the IOF’s “targeted killings,” and the Egyptians were asking for a written American guarantee of Israel's commitment on this issue, and on troop withdrawals and other steps implementing the “roadmap” peace plan.

These reports also quoted Palestinians involved in the talks as saying that Egypt would invite all the factions to Cairo for more talks. Previous rounds in Cairo have not produced results.

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