Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed Palestinian sources have stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Hamas movement’s delegation will return to Cairo tomorrow to hand its response detailing its stand on the proposed calm agreement which Egypt formulated with the Israelis and Palestinian factions and its stand on the call for national Palestinian reconciliation.
The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said that Hamas would accept a calm for one year and a half that starts on 5 February but would not agree to start the [inter-Palestinian] dialogue on 22 February as proposed and agreed on with the other factions. An official in Hamas said “this date is not final and under discussion. The movement will give its response to it at the proper time.”
On the other hand, Cairo continued its talks with the Palestinian factions’ delegations to agree on a comprehensive ceasefire on 5 February and start the national reconciliation on 22 February. Minister Omar Suleiman held meetings with the Islamic Jihad and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine delegations. Jihad Spokesman Dawud Shihab said “the meeting was very frank and Minister Suleiman presented to us the Egyptian vision of the solution and talked about four dossiers: The calm, the lifting of the blockade, the reconstruction, and national reconciliation. We agree on the general framework but there are details that need to be discussed by us.” He added that “the calm is the urgent issue at present as is the opening of the crossings. The minister proposed to us a calm for a year and a half during which the crossings will be opened and aid and goods brought in so as to improve the living conditions in Gaza. We will discuss the matter and respond before 5 February.”
Regarding the reconstruction, he said “the minister stressed that it is simultaneous with the dialogue. It requires unity of stands and detailed discussion on our part. The minister said that Egypt would present the draft reached during the last dialogue with the factions in November and make some changes to it. We must take the resistance which is struggling and struggled into consideration in any agreement and the resistance should remain as long as there is occupation.”
On his part, Mahir al-Tahir, member of the Popular Front’s Political Bureau, said the meeting with the minister dealt with several issues related to the Palestinian affair “and we presented our vision, the most important part of it is the need to reform the PLO, rebuild and reactivate it so as to include all the forces on the basis of the 2005 Cairo agreement. We underlined the importance of ending the division, restoring unity, and forming a national accord government and we proposed forming a national committee for the reconstruction that includes all the forces and stressed that there is an occupation and it is our right to continue the resistance. But we are in the end with the Palestinian homeland’s interest.” He added: “We also pointed out that calm is between warring armies while we are an unarmed people and therefore it is our right to resist as long as there is occupation.”
Dr Salih Zaydan, member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Political Bureau, said the delegation discussed with Minister Suleiman the day before yesterday three issues which are the ceasefire, the reconstitution of the Gaza Strip, and the comprehensive national dialogue. He pointed out that the front’s delegation in Cairo discussed the calm issue with the Hamas, Fatah, and Popular Front’s delegation.
In other news, New US peace envoy George Mitchell said on Wednesday it was critically important to consolidate the Gaza ceasefire.
“It is of critical importance that the ceasefire be extended and consolidated. We support Egypt’s continuing efforts in that regard,” he said after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the first leg of a Middle East tour.
Mitchell, instructed by President Barack Obama to “engage vigorously” to achieve real progress in the region, discussed with Mubarak Egypt’s efforts to bring peace to Gaza.
He thanked Egypt for its efforts to bring about a ceasefire and said the United States is “committed to vigorously pursuing lasting peace and stability in the region.”
“The decision by President Obama to dispatch me to come to this region less than one week after his inauguration is clear and tangible evidence of this commitment,” Mitchell said before leaving for his next stop, Israel.
Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli warplanes bombed tunnels under the border between Gaza and Egypt that Israel says are used to smuggle weapons, responding to an attack on Tuesday along the border that killed an Israeli soldier and wounded three others.