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Palestinian dialogue resumes in Cairo, for the first time without Suleiman

All parties concerned are heralding a new beginning in inter-Palestinian dialogue towards reconciliation following the ouster of the Mubarak regime

Ahmed Eleiba , Wednesday 6 Apr 2011
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Fresh Palestinian dialogue will take place in Cairo, a site of changed landmarks. Mubarak’s regime, including Omar Suleiman, are out of the picture and the US veto — rejecting Hamas rule in Gaza — is no longer there, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has said.

Prior to Cairo’s dialogue invitation, the rules of the game had changed. The change comes down to the new head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Nabil Al-Arabi, who is known to have a strategic-diplomatic mind that does not allow for foreign interference.

Al-Arabi’s calculations set as their priority Cairo’s leadership position in what is seen as the most important foreign policy file in Egypt. As for the national security apparatus, it too has its role, for the Palestinian issue is also a matter of national security.

Yet the prerequisite for dialogue is the intention of both sides to take concrete steps to end nearly five years of division in a land already under Israeli occupation, reuniting the most prominent factions, Hamas and Fatah.

Cairo is testing such intentions by following up on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s prospective visit to the Gaza Strip, a visit Hamas suggested but is now stalling on using many pretexts, the most recurrent of which is Mahmoud Al-Zahhar’s statement to Ahram Online that Abbas’s safety is in jeopardy due to a family vendetta against him.

And while Cairo is receiving many Palestinian delegations, last week meeting with representatives from four Palestinian groups (Hamas, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Independent Coalition), it will meet with Abbas Thursday.

Cairo is also planning to receive Khaled Meshal next week, the Damascus based Hamas leader who left Cairo over a year ago after failed negotiations saying he would not visit Cairo, and nor would any other Hamas representative, as long as Mubarak and Suleiman headed the Egyptian regime.

The two visits are expected to pave the road to Gaza for Abbas. If the plan succeeds, dialogue between rival factions should resume in Cairo.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is optimistic after hearing what Palestinian factions have had to say, ministry sources say. Yasser Al-Wadeya of the Independent Coalition expressed optimism as well.

Egypt’s previously proposed reconciliation plan elicited many reservations from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, however Egypt was adamant about the proposal and maintained that whoever wanted reconciliation must sign it.

The Palestinian factions are now willing to revisit it, but as a starting point with adjustments made to reflect points of reservation and build on points of agreement.

In this context, Al-Wadeya revealed that Hamas would be flexible, that they had given positive feedback, and that the Coalition had asked them to be practical.

The secretaries of the Palestinian factions will be invited for two days of discussion in Cairo, said president of the Independent Coalition Abdul Aziz Al-Shakaki in interview with Ahram Online.

Abbas and Meshal’s visits will be a serious attempt to finalise a formula for resolving the crisis, said Al-Shakaki, mentioning that purity of intention should help Hamas over reservations regarding security, the composition of government, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which remain sticking points.

Observers see that a role exists for regional players, and that they are ready to provide support, especially Tehran and Damascus. Cairo’s relationship with Damascus, which hosts a Hamas office, has markedly improved since the fall of the Mubarak regime.

Egypt thanked Bashar Al-Assad for the release of Mohammed Radwan, the Egyptian engineer who was recently detained by Syria allegedly for "filming the uprising" there — gratitude not directed to Damascus for years.

Likewise, Cairo intends to embark on a fresh start with Tehran, as shown by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' reception of an Iranian representative.

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