CAIRO (AFP) -Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has met with Egyptian leaders amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in Cairo aimed at quelling relentless violence in Gaza and advancing Palestinian unity talks.
President Hosni Mubarak and Abbas discussed the planned new Palestinian government and efforts to reactivate the peace process with Israel, presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told reporters Wednesday.
Mubarak “hopes the coming period will see a national unity government that will speak with one voice and represent the Palestinian position, and lead to the activation of the peace process”, Awad said.
Palestinian officials are engaged in efforts to form a national unity government including both the radical Islamic governing party Hamas and Abbas’s mainstream Fatah movement.
Such a move would be expected to result in the lifting of a Western blockade on financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, in place since Hamas came to power in March.
Representatives of the so-called quartet of Middle East diplomatic players were also due to meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the international community’s response to a unity government.
“The aim of this meeting is to come up with a common analysis of the situation and consider the next move, in particular if and when the Palestinians form a national unity government,” European Union Middle East envoy Marc Otte told AFP.
The quartet meeting was to be attended by US regional envoy David Welch as well as his counterparts from the United Nations and Russia, Alvaro de Soto and Sergei Iacovlev respectively.
“One of the main issues will be how to respond to a national unity government,” said a UN official on condition of anonymity.
“This response is clearly very important because there is no sense in a unity government if it doesn’t lift the blockade,” the official added.
Otte said he and his counterparts would also attempt to seal a quartet meeting at the ministerial level by the end of the year.
“We need to have a more sustained working relationship with our partners in the region,” Otto said, referring to Israel and a grouping of Arab governments.
The quartet drafted the roadmap peace plan which has made next to no progress since its launch in 2003.
De Soto, who met with Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa ahead of the quartet meeting, said the United Nations was “encouraged” by the ongoing efforts to form a Palestinian unity government.
He said that such a cabinet would be in “a better position than the current one to bring about a better engagement with the international community and also better address the problem of law and order in the Palestinian streets.”
Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli has hit out at the quartet for not doing enough to rein in the deadly offensive launched by Israel after the capture of a soldier by Gaza-based militants in June.
“It is quite clear that the message of dissatisfaction in what the (UN) Security Council was able to do was felt rather strongly,” de Soto told reporters.
The Cairo quartet meeting comes after Israeli shelling of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanun last week that killed 19 Palestinians, mainly women and children.
“We hope that Israel will not only investigate the military operational aspect of the actions it took … but also pause and take a long hard look at the whole policy of strong actions which is obviously not achieving the desired results,” de Soto said.
The United States on Sunday vetoed an Arab-sponsored draft resolution in the Security Council that would have condemned Israel’s deadly attack.