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The News Line: Feature President Sisi ‘played pivotal role’ in helping Fatah & Hamas overcoming their differences! EGYPTIAN President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi played a pivotal role in helping Fatah and Hamas overcome their differences to form a National Consensus Government in Gaza.


Fattah al-Sisi’s special envoy to the Palestinian reconciliation, Khaled Fawzi, arrived in Gaza on Tuesday afternoon coming from Ramallah where he met with President Mahmoud Abbas. Fawzi met in Gaza upon arrival with Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to discuss progress in government takeover of duties in the Strip.

In their Ramallah meeting, President Abbas thanked Egypt for its efforts to help the Palestinians overcome their division and reach reconciliation and reunification between the West Bank and Gaza Strip after 10 years of rift.

Fawzi said he was pleased to see the launch of the reconciliation process with the arrival of the National Consensus Government in Gaza on Monday and its assumption of duties. He said Egypt is going to invite Fatah and Hamas to Cairo in the near future to discuss the developments so far and to prepare for a wider meeting for all the factions involved in signing the May 4, 2011 Cairo reconciliation agreement in order to start implementing its terms.

• United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said on Tuesday the return of the Palestinian Authority’s government to Gaza is essential for urgently resolving the humanitarian situation, most notably the crippling electricity and health crises.

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza, he said the return of the government to Gaza ‘should facilitate the lifting of the movement and access restrictions on Gaza, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1860.’

‘I was encouraged by the firm commitment of President Abbas and the Government to return to Gaza under the full control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority,’ he said in a press release.
Mladenov praised the continuing ‘engagement of Egypt with all sides to ensure the implementation of the Cairo understandings.’

He expressed readiness on behalf of the United Nations to continue working with the ‘legitimate Palestinian authorities and the region in support of the Government in taking up its responsibilities in Gaza.’

‘I reiterate the call of the Middle East Quartet to end the militant activities in Gaza and ensure that peace with Israel is achieved on the basis of negotiations. Gaza is and must be an integral part of the future Palestinian state.’

• President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that he will not accept the Hezbollah example being applied in the Palestinian areas. ‘I will not accept or copy or reproduce the Hezbollah example in Lebanon,’ he told an Egyptian TV station. ‘Everything must be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.’

Abbas was referring to the Hamas militias and weapons, which is expected to be a point of contention in the reconciliation talks that are expected to kick off in Cairo in the coming days. Hezbollah has its own militias in Lebanon and at the same time is part of the Lebanese government.

Abbas believes in one authority, one government and one weapon, which should be only in the hands of the official Palestinian security forces. The Palestinian president also said that his forces will be in charge of the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and Israel, its two bordering countries.

‘The Palestinian National Authority will be in charge of the crossings,’ he said, explaining that the crossings, the ministries and security should be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority if the reconciliation efforts are to succeed.

‘If the government is unable to carry out its duties and obstacles are placed in its way, then everything will stop,’ he said in a different interview for another Egyptian TV station, explaining however that ‘we are not going to look for mistakes or be put in the corner of either take it or leave it and everything is then over. Rather, we are going to take every opportunity and do our best because this is unity, national unity, which is dear to all of us.’

Abbas said that when he raised the issue of reconciliation with US President Donald Trump during their meeting in New York, he got the impression that the US is not opposed to it. ''I don’t want to say it (US) blesses or approves, but I believe it does not object to what is going on,’ he said. When I was in New York I thanked President Trump for his efforts regarding the reconciliation and his answer was “you are welcome.” From these words we understood that the Americans are not opposed to it.’

• The Palestinian National Consensus Government convened for the first time in three years in Gaza City on Tuesday, a day after Palestinian Authority officials arrived to begin Egyptian-mediated reconciliation efforts with Hamas, the besieged coastal enclave’s de facto ruling party.

Fatah and Hamas have been embroiled in conflict since Hamas’ election victory in 2006 elections in the Gaza Strip, which erupted into a violent conflict between the two movements, with Hamas consolidating its control over the territory a year later.

After 2007, Hamas started to issue its own legislation for the Gaza Strip and ruled through the caretaker government. A National Consensus Government formed in June 2014, tasked with preparing for the legislative and presidential elections that never materialised, as both Fatah and Hamas blamed each other for numerous political failures.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told the cabinet at the start of its meeting, usually held every Tuesday in Ramallah, that his government is going to assume full responsibility of all sectors of life in Gaza ‘in full cooperation and partnership with all the Palestinian factions and forces,’ PA-owned Wafa news agency reported. He said all outstanding administrative issues, including the issue of public employees, will be gradually dealt with in the framework of the 2014 Cairo agreement ‘within the available resources.’

‘We are here to close and forever (turn) the page on division and steer our national project back to its right track to end the Israeli occupation based on international law and UN resolutions,’ he reportedly said.

The prime minister said that reconciliation will also oblige donors to meet the pledges they made in Cairo in 2014 toward the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip following Israel’s devastating war, according to Wafa. He also urged an immediate lifting of the 10-year-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza and an end to Israel’s collective punishment on Palestinians in the enclave.

Various Ramallah-based cabinet ministers had inspected their ministries in Gaza and met with staff to make sure the takeover of the ministries runs smoothly, Wafa added. The cabinet ministers were expected to return to Ramallah on Wednesday. Spokesperson of the National Consensus Government Yousef al-Mahmoud said at a press conference following the cabinet meeting that ending division would include forming committees to start working on resolving the issue of border crossings, electricity, and water, in addition, and others.

Al-Mahmoud said that the government requested issuing initial reports on the needs of the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, and described the situation in the impoverished territory as ‘tragic.’ He applauded ‘the historical role’ of Egypt in sponsoring reconciliation and Hamas for accepting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ ‘initiative to end division.’

Abbas said in an interview late Monday with the Egyptian news station CBC that, ‘There can be no Palestinian state without completing reconciliation and unity. The government has returned to Gaza to carry out its duties. We have ideological differences with Hamas, but we can’t deny the fact they’re a part of the Palestinian people.’

According to a translation of the interview from Times of Israel, Abbas said that he would not be prepared to accept Hamas keeping its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. ''I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon’ in Gaza, Abbas reportedly said.
Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government but retains its own army. The president added that despite his ‘strong desire to see this reconciliation through,’ this would not happen unless the PA ‘ruled the Gaza Strip just as it does the West Bank.’

‘The border crossings, security, and all the ministries must be under our control,’ he was quoted as saying several times. Hamas, however, has said that its armed wing was not even up for discussion in the reconciliation process.

In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, Hamas said, ‘We congratulate the Palestinian people on the arrival of the National Consensus Government to Gaza and taking over its missions and holding its weekly session in a positive atmosphere.’

‘We look forward to continuing the steps of reconciliation through bilateral talks that will soon be held in Egypt, in reference to applying the 2011 agreements and its follow-ups, to reach full partnership in leading national institutions and the political agenda to achieve the goals of our people,’ the statement said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi released a taped video message expressing support for the consensus government and assuring Egypt’s role in guaranteeing reconciliation efforts, saying that the ‘(Palestinian) division leaves no winners but forces spreading extremism in the region.’

‘History will punish whoever wastes this reconciliation opportunity to achieve peace,’ he said, and called for ‘no foreign interference in the Palestinian internal affairs.’
 
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