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Resumption of ties with Hamas would be “premature”: Egyptian official - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Palestinian Hamas security guards stand near an Egyptian watch tower on the border with Egypt in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 5, 2013. (AP /Hatem Moussa)

Palestinian Hamas security guards stand near an Egyptian watch tower on the border with Egypt in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 5, 2013. (AP /Hatem Moussa)

Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—As diplomatic efforts to secure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza enter their third day, many predict that the ongoing indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israelis—mediated by Cairo—could lead to the resumption of ties between the Egyptian government and Hamas.

Tel Aviv and Hamas have settled in for protracted talks over a lasting truce and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, with the Israeli and Palestinian sides trading warnings regarding the resumption of violence.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an Israeli source told Asharq Al-Awsat that it is in the best interest of Hamas to resume ties with Egypt. “This is not only because Egypt controls the Rafah Border Crossing, which Hamas badly needs to see open again, but because Cairo can be a source of mobilizing Arab political support for the Islamist movement,” the source said.

Relations between Hamas and Cairo were strained following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi in mid-2013.

Hamas, which had been a strong ally of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, denounced Mursi’s removal as a military coup.

An official Egyptian source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media, described talks about the resumption of ties with Hamas as being “premature.” He warned that any Cairo-Hamas rapprochement during the current period “may affect the course of the ongoing negotiations for achieving quiet in the Gaza Strip.”

But the official did not rule out the possibility of any “future” steps towards rapprochement with Hamas. “We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

Hamas initially rejected the initiative proposed by Egypt on July 14 to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, citing opposition to the initiative’s “style and content.” In a previous interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in July Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “We reject initiatives proposed through the media; they [Egypt] should talk to us.”

According to some reports, the Palestinian Islamist movement would have preferred for its main regional backers, Qatar and Turkey, to play a more active role in securing a settlement with Israel.

But plans to involve Turkey and Qatar in the conflict between Hamas and Israel “collided with opposition from the main [regional] sides, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel,” a senior Palestinian source, who requested anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Hamas has finally realized that it has no choice but to return to Egypt,” he added.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, a Hamas source said: “From the beginning Hamas was not working against Egypt at all. We appreciate Egypt’s historical role and were only seeking to secure amendments to the Egyptian initiative.”

Additional reporting by Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi.