EGYPT WILL EASE GAZA BLOCKADE says Haniya after talks with Mursi

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GAZA prime minister Ismail Haniya is ‘satisfied’ with the outcome of talks with Egypt’s President Mursi, the Hamas-backed Palestinian newspaper Filastin website reported on Saturday.

Haniya disclosed a host of ‘immediate decisions’ approved during his meeting with Mursi.

He asserted that the meeting of the Gaza government delegation has special significance in terms of the timing and substance after six years of political siege imposed by the regime of ousted Egyptian president Husni Mubarak.

In an exclusive interview with the correspondent of Filastin, Haniya said: ‘The timing of the meeting is important as it came after the 25 January revolution.

‘In terms of substance, we discussed Palestinian files and the suffering and pursuit of the Palestinian people, as well as Judaising Jerusalem, changing its features, and obliterating its identity; and what the West Bank is suffering including the settlement activity, wall, and incursions at any time.’

He added: ‘We also discussed what the Gaza Strip has been facing, including the blockade, fuel and electricity crisis, movement at the crossings, construction, and the health situation.’

Haniya pointed out that three solutions were agreed on to end the electricity crisis.

The Gaza prime minister said that the Rafah land crossing would follow a new operational policy and that the residents of the Gaza Strip would feel a change in travel procedures and times.

Haniya characterised the meeting as ‘historic and came at a historic time.

‘It confirms that Egypt and its people embrace the Palestinian people and their causes. The meeting reflected the will of the Egyptian people, which respects the Palestinian people.’

He said his meeting with the Egyptian president ‘corrected a previous track by the ousted regime (of Husni Mubarak).

‘We are satisfied with the discussion that took place on all Palestinian files. We hope that the Palestinians will feel the results of this meeting.’

The Gaza prime minister revealed ‘immediate decisions’ that were made during the meeting, stipulating ‘opening the Rafah land port for 12 hours daily from 9am until 9pm and allowing increasing the number of travellers from the Gaza Strip to 1,500 daily and accommodating all the Palestinians coming from outside.’

Haniya said: ‘We discussed the file of persons who are banned from travelling and whose names are on a security list with the Egyptian authorities, noting that 60 per cent of the names on the list were removed.’

He indicated that it was agreed to ‘give any Palestinian who enters Egyptian territory a 72-hour stay in Egypt. This means ending the question of deportation and removing a large part of the suffering that Gaza citizens had endured in their travel.’

Haniya said that the Egyptian authorities would increase the number of Egyptian staffers to facilitate the movement of travellers. ‘This is an advanced step to alleviate one link in the chain of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.’

The Palestinian prime minister also revealed a decision to alleviate the electricity crisis, noting that the crisis would be resolved in three stages.

These are: increasing the amount of fuel for operating the only power plant in the Gaza Strip, while increasing the capacity to 22-30 megawatts; laying a gas pipeline for the electricity generation company; and carrying out the eight-party power grid to supply the Gaza Strip with electric power.

Haniya said: ‘The authorities will inform the Egyptian company of the steps to resolve the crisis of the Gaza electricity.

‘The company is willing to carry this out by installing an additional transformer in the city of Al-Wahsh.’

He added that it has been agreed to increase the number of trucks laden with Qatari fuel from six to ten everyday to the Gaza Strip.

Haniya confirmed that the question of opening the closed Egyptian consulate in Gaza was raised.

This is in addition to discussing the dispatch of a security-diplom atic delegation from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to work at the consulate and alleviate the suffering of Palestinians by facilitating the processing of their paperwork with Cairo.

Haniya stressed that ‘the Palestinian government and the Palestinian people respect Egyptian sovereignty and the rules of entry to Egypt and exit from it. We cannot provide any cover for any chaos in Sinai or in any Egyptian area.’

He added: ‘We spoke about a set of principles. We will not throw Gaza onto the Egyptian lap despite the strategic dimension of it and of the Palestinian issue.

‘At the same time, it is not possible to exempt the occupation of its responsibilities towards Gaza in the light of the fact that it continues to be under occupation.’

Haniya stressed that his government ‘will not make the Gaza Strip an entity that is independent of Palestinian land because Gaza is an indivisible part of the Palestinian land and state.

‘We will not allow for considering it an independent entity; we do not want to establish a state in Gaza.’

He said that all that is said to the effect that the Palestinians would occupy it (Sinai) and live in it ‘is within the context of the media escalation against Gaza; Sinai is sovereign Egyptian land and will not be for the Palestinians. We do not accept any substitute homeland for our people in any region.’

Haniya stressed that ‘the security of Sinai is our security and a strategic objective for us. All attempts to involve the Palestinians in the lack of security in the Sinai area will fail.

‘You will only see the Palestinians on their land inside Palestine.’

He pointed out that the tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip with Egyptian territories are ‘a temporary phenomenon out of necessity. They were dug when the Palestinians lost all elements of life.

‘They resorted to them to obtain their needs, and this is their natural right. If the blockade ends, we will not need them.’

On whether the Haniya-Mursi meeting addressed the reconciliation file in an in-depth manner, the Hamas leader said that ‘the situation on the ground does not indicate that there is any form of reconciliation in light of the continuation of arrests and security and political pursuits in the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority’s security agencies, as well as the closure of charitable associations and institutions and dealing with Hamas there as an outlawed movement.’

Haniya reiterated his government’s assertion that there is no political detainee in prison in Gaza, saying: ‘There is no political prisoner.

‘If there is a prisoner who belongs to the Fatah Movement, he is detained or arrested against a criminal or security background with evidence proving his collaboration with the occupation.’

He denied any plans to hold Palestinian elections ‘unless the conditions and climate for holding them are available, including freedom of movement and expression of opinion in the West Bank and the participation of the people of Jerusalem and not marginalising it and excluding it from the elections.’