Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Mediation by Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has resulted in a “compromise” being reached in the diplomatic row between the two, Asharq al Awsat can reveal.
Sources close to the talks between Tripoli and Ramallah revealed that it was agreed Gaddafi would personally telephone Mahmoud Abbas to invite him to attend the Arab Summit that is being hosted by Libya on 27 March, and that Abbas would accept the invitation without questioning what happened during his visit to Libya on 21 February. Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this telephone call will be sufficient.” Gaddafi had refused to meet with Abbas during the Palestinian President’s visit to Tripoli, something that had angered the Palestinians. Sources also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaddafi had told Suleiman – who visited Tripoli on Wednesday with a message from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the preparations for the Tripoli summit – that he was not aware that Abbas was in Libya.
However a Palestinian official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaddafi and Abbas had spoken three times via telephone during the Palestinian President’s tour of Japan, Germany, and Russia, and that the two leaders agreed that Abbas would visit and meet with the Libyan leader on 21 February. A Palestinian source also revealed details of Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Tripoli, where he was greeted at the airport by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. Abbas also met with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmoudi. The source also revealed that Gaddafi specifically dispatched his chief of staff to visit with Abbas and apologize for the Libyan leader being unable to attend their meeting, and to inform him that Gaddafi would meet with him at a later time. Gaddafi failed to attend two such meetings before Abbas finally left the country without meeting with him.
The sources also revealed that Gaddafi was trying to arrange a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khalid Mishal, but Abbas rejected meeting any Hamas officials before the movement signs the Egyptian mediated Palestinian reconciliation agreement in Cairo. Abbas repeated this position to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi during his meeting with him at Tripoli Airport. This angered Colonel Gaddafi who refused to meet with Abbas. This position in turn angered the Fatah Central Command and the PLO Executive Committee, who both called for the Palestinian President to boycott the Tripoli Summit in response to Gaddafi’s “actions.” The Palestinian leadership discussed three options with regards to attending the Arab Summit; firstly the Palestinian Authority could simply boycott the summit, secondly Abbas could attend the summit without receiving a personal invitation from Gaddafi and only participate in Arab Summit official meetings with the view that this is part of the Arab League, and Libya is merely hosting the summit, or finally that Abbas could boycott the summit and the Palestinian delegation would instead be led by the Palestinian Foreign Minister. The source confirmed that Ramallah decided not to boycott the summit as the Tripoli Summit is set to discuss the Palestinian issue. Other Palestinian sources later confirmed that Abbas is prepared to attend the summit and will accept a personal invitation from Gaddafi and a public apology for his actions.
In a related controversy, Gaddafi announced three months ago that he was considering the possibility of inviting Hamas chief Khalid Mishal to attend the Tripoli summit, despite the fact that Mishal does not represent any official legitimate Palestinian faction. Political adviser to the Palestinian President, Nimr Hamad, confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Abbas categorically rejects ay attempts to invite “opposition parties” to attend the Tripoli Summit.
Abbas aide Nimr Hamad told Asharq Al-Awsat that inviting Abbas to attend the Tripoli Summit as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people is the only way to guarantee the participation of the Palestinian leadership at the Tripoli Summit. He added “we are convinced of the Libyan leadership’s ability to follow up on this issue with full responsibility, and that it will work towards the success of the summit”