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Hamas looks to turn a new page with Egypt

Hamas' foreign minister sees a changing Egypt reflected in pronouncements by the foreign minister on Israel as the movement seeks ways to end its rift with Fatah

Ahmed Eleiba , Tuesday 29 Mar 2011
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Hamas leaders visited Egypt on Monday for the first time in 15 months. Their visit follows a tour of the region that included Sudan and Turkey to understand the Middle East’s new map, which was drawn in Tunisia and Egypt.

The visit seeks to clarify the effect of these changes on the Palestinian cause and relations with Hamas.

Mahmoud Al-Zahar, Hamas’ minister for foreign relations, and Khalil Al-Hayya, a member in the movement’s political bureau, held a press conference in the Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo.

The leaders were given a warm welcome; an indicator, they believed, of a changing Egypt that had previously slammed the door in their faces.

Al-Zahar’s began by saying that Hamas never took part in any action against Egypt. He said that divine justice showed Hamas’ innocence in relation to the Alexandrian Two Saints Church bombing, which was blamed on Palestinian militants.  

He continued saying that that the movement will never at any point threaten Egypt’s national security. The security of Palestinian land, Al-Zahar added, relies first and foremost on Egypt’s security and stability.

Al-Zahar welcomed Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi’s statements warning Israel against launching a new war on Gaza, adding that Egypt’s security is its strength and sovereignty, both are to the benefit of the Palestinian cause.

Hamas has been waiting a long time for Egypt to make such statements, he added. Instead, the previous regime took part in the Gaza blockade and, according to Al-Zahar, assisted Israel in its last war.

Al-Zahar and Al-Hayya met with the head of the Egyptian intelligence’s deputies upon their arrival in Cairo. They are also set to meet El-Arabi.

The meeting with El-Arabi will focus on the issue of Palestinian reconciliation and the status of the PLO, which he believes needs to be restructured. Everything agreed upon earlier concerning the PLO has been scrapped.

Al-Zahar conveyed a very negative outlook in relation the situation at the Rafah crossing. Hamas hopes that students and those seeking medical attention will be allowed to cross between the two sides. The Egyptian side has promised to look into the matter as well as that of Palestinian detainees. Hamas was given a file with the names and statuses of the detainees as well as the causes for their arrest.

Al-Zahar is scheduled to meet with the secretary-general of the Arab League Tuesday and a meeting with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is being set up. The council has agreed to meet with the movement and designated a representative to do so.

For his part, Al-Hayya said that Hamas is aware of the reasons behind the division (with Fatah) at the current stage. However, they want a real reconciliation, not just protocol to move the Palestinians into a new era.

He refuted rumours that Qatar would take over Egypt’s role and made the point that the rift between Gaza and the West Bank negatively affects the resistance.

The notion of resistance has gained ground and value following the failure of the Oslo accords, according to Al-Hayya. “This should be the starting point of our unity, to paint a new picture for the future of our cause,” he said.

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