MISHUK MUNIER, PRESENTER: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leaders to Cairo on Wednesday for separate talks. The meetings were called in an effort to resolve the political crisis caused by the opening of the Gaza border by militants last week. Barriers had been blown up by Hamas in an attempt to provide relief from the blockade and embargo of the Gaza Strip.
January 30, 2008
FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: This is just only a collective punishment against the Palestinians and against Hamas. And this reflects the reality of the defeat of this occupation, beside the establishment and the willing and determination of the Palestinians to break the siege and the embargo.
Abbas steadfastly refuses to have any dealings with Hamas, despite Egyptian pressure for a compromise.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT: Unless they recognize international legitimacy and accept early elections, talking to them is useless.
Hamas condemned Abbas’ refusal to work with them following his meeting with Mubarak, saying it was an attempt to prevent the current round of talks from reaching a solution to the crisis. This is the first time a delegation from Hamas has been received in Cairo since the militant group seized control of Gaza in June. We spoke to Osamah Khalil in Cairo about the situation.
OSAMAH KHALIL, JOURNALIST: The previous border arrangement was a three-way arrangement between Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah, and that is the arrangement that Abbas is attempting to reinstate, and of course that’s the arrangement that Israel and the United States want back in play. For Hamas, Hamas wants to have some kind of equal power-sharing arrangement not only within the government but at the border, to recognize not only its own sovereignty over Gaza at this point but its achievements in blowing open that border. Egypt is kind of stuck in the middle right now. Egypt, I think, is attempting to pressure Abbas or at least try and convince him that some kind of arrangement would be both in Fatah’s interest as well as Hamas’ interest, and hopefully use this kind of arrangement towards a broader reconciliation and national unity government, which Egypt, although they weren’t originally in favor of that, they have kind of come around to at this point. There’s a lot of pressure on Egypt though. It shares the border with Gaza. And there’s a lot of pressure from the Arab League, a lot of popular pressure here in Egypt. The Palestinian cause is obviously very popular across the region. And there’s been a lot of coverage. Although there hasn’t been a lot of coverage in the United States and a number of the western media, there’s been a lot of coverage, local coverage, [inaudible] the satellite channels. And President Mubarak is under a lot of pressure to intervene, particularly, again, because of that shared border, and because of a lot of the pictures that are coming out of Palestinians suffering due to the stringent cuts in power and the siege that’s been underway. President Mubarak is under pressure not only from the Arab League, who would obviously like to keep the border open, but also on the other side, from Israel and the United States, who are pressuring him to close the border, to cut off the supplies that are coming in in some kind of vain attempt to reinstate the siege. And, unfortunately, based on Mahmoud Abbas’ comments–the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas–that’s exactly what he wants as well. President Abbas today referred to it as a, quote-unquote, Palestinian invasion of Egypt, which is not going to go over well in Gaza and I don’t think it’s going to go over well across the region.
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