Four issues on the table in new round of talks with Hamas in Cairo

Ahmed Eleiba , Monday 11 Sep 2017

Hamas leading figure Ismail Haniyeh (AP)

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo earlier this week to resume talks which started in February regarding the the situation in the Gaza Strip and bilateral relations with Egypt.

The delegation is led by the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, in his first visit to Cairo since his election as the head of the group’s political bureau in May.

According to observers, Haniyeh's participation in the current talks is an indicator of the development of the dialogue, which is moving to its concluding phase.

The delegation also include representatives from Hamas abroad, such as Mousa Abu Marzook, and Saleh Al-Arori, who both arrived in Cairo from Turkey.

The head of the group in Gaza, Yahia Senwar, and his deputy Khalil Al-Hayya, as well as leading member Rawhi Mushtaha, all came from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which was opened specifically for them.

The talks will focus on four main files: borders control, security, reconciliation, a Palestinian prisoners’ deal, and improving conditions in Gaza, Tarek Fahmy, an advisor at the National Center of Middle Eastern Studies in Cairo, told Ahram Online

The talks will also tackle the speeding up of the implementation of the understandings that have been recently agreed on by the two sides, regarding providing Gaza larger amounts of electricity, and the opening of Rafah crossing border, Fahmy added.

Fahmy concluded that the high profile of the delegation, i.e. Haniyeh’s inclusion, means that a new level of understanding between Egypt and Hamas will enter into force, and will have repercussions on the conditions in the Gaza Strip.

Taher Al-Nono, the spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation currently in Cairo, agreed that the four topics were being discussed, and described the meetings as "positive, comforting, and happening in a warm atmosphere.”

The first file is continuing the consolidation of the bilateral relations, which the group says are developing in a good way with Cairo.

According to Al-Nono, "the group leadership is largely keen on developing relations."

The second file, which the spokesperson did not give many details about, is "resuming and building on the understandings that occurred in previous meetings that Hamas delegations held in Cairo."

Hamas leaders held at least three meetings earlier which highlighted re-drawing the route and the nature of managing the situation in Gaza, through settling the disagreement between Mohamed Dahlan, the former leader of Fatah in Gaza, and Hamas.

The disagreement dates back to armed clashes between the two sides in 2007, when Dahlan was the head of the Palestinian Authority's preventative security body, which left a number of people killed and injured.

The armed confrontations were followed by Hamas taking control over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Sources in Hamas told Ahram Online that an agreement to settle this dispute was made by establishing a committee to settle the blood money owed to those who were killed and compensation for those injured.

A Palestinian source from Gaza who is informed of the details of the talks confirmed to Ahram Online that "a large amount of blood money has been settled recently."

Regarding the end of Hamas’ control over the strip, the Palestinian source said that it was not resolved yet.

The control is represented by a higher administrative committee that runs Gazan affairs, a committee that Cairo has asked Hamas to scrap.

According to the Palestinian source, it has been recommended that the committee be dissolved because because of internal pressures to do so, especially from the Islamic Jihad movement.

Another file is the management of the Rafah border, which the Palestinian Authority, according to the source, insists on participating in managing.

On the issue of border control, the Palestinian source noted that "Hamas has finished the second phase of the security wall with Egypt, completing 12 kilometres," adding that the second phase includes barbed wires, security cameras, and lights.

The source describes Hamas' efforts in that regard as a step forward, to implement the procedures agreed upon with Egypt before continuing joint dialogue.

The details of the security wall were agreed on in June in Cairo with a security delegation from Hamas.

According to this agreement the area will be a closed military area, in order to facilitate border-monitoring and stop the smuggling of drugs and wanted people.

The third file that is being addressed in the current talks is the fate of the Palestinian issue in general, according to Al-Nono.

The fourth issue under discussion is Palestinian national reconciliation in broad terms as well as Palestinian relations with Egyptian officials, Al-Nono added.

Hamas says, according to sources in Cairo and Gaza, that it is about to start a new political phase, in the light the internal popular pressures the group has been facing, due to the hard conditions that life in Gaza has reached. This implies that the group recognizes that it has to change its behaviour, especially towards Egypt, following a long period of tensions.

On the other hand, sources in Cairo say that Hamas has no chance to cooperate with Egypt during the current phase as the two sides are facing a challenge from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah--especially with the involvement in the talks of Dahlan, who represents a challenge to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

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