Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Well informed Palestinian sources have confirmed that relations between the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas and Libya and Tunisia have become strained.
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that tensions with Libya arose following President Abbas’s visit to the country last month where he refused a request by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to meet with Hamas chief Khalid Mishal.
The sources confirmed that Gaddafi was planning to bring together Abbas and Metal and announce an agreement between the two men, and this was something that Abbas categorically rejected.
The sources clarified that Abbas’s rejection of the Libyan plan angered Gaddafi who responded to this by refusing to meet with the Palestinian president. Hamas confirmed that Libya has entered the reconciliation process in order to clear the air prior to the Arab Summit which is scheduled to take place at the end of March in Tripoli.
The Palestinian Authority said that it would only pursue reconciliation in Cairo out of respect and appreciation for the Egyptian effort that has been exerted over the past two years, and in order not to embarrass Egypt.
At the end of last month Abbas refused a similar offer to sign a reconciliation agreement in Syria, revealing that Hamas had informed him they were willing to sign a reconciliation agreement but only in Syria.
The sources said that the issue of signing a reconciliation agreement is not subject to personal wishes, and it is up to Hamas to first sign the Egyptian Reconciliation Agreement, and after this nothing would prevent the president from meeting with Mishal.
As for the second issue which is causing tension between the Palestinian Authority and the Libyan leadership, this is Libya leaving the door open for Hamas to attend the Arab Summit in Tripoli. However the Palestinian source said “the way that the Palestinian Authority has been treated is what has troubled us, not the issue of Hamas’s invitation, for this issue is decided by well–known protocols, and this requires an Arab resolution and looking at what happened at the Qatar summit [attended by Hamas].” The source added “in any case, if he [Gaddafi] intends to invite the Palestinian opposition, then he must invite all the opposition parties of all Arab countries as well, and his own opposition also.”
The Palestinian Authority announced that it would not attend the Tripoli Summit if Hamas were also invited, although the source confirmed that this issue will be discussed with the Arab countries, and it is up to the Arab countries to take a position on this.
Hamas had asked Libya to allow them to attend the Tripoli Summit, either independently or as part of the official Palestinian delegation attending the summit. Abbas has so far been unable to resolve the issue of Hamas’s attendance with Libya. Those close to President Abbas fear that Gaddafi may intentionally snub the Palestinian delegation, such as by personally receiving all of the Arab leaders except Mahmoud Abbas or by speaking against him during the summit itself.
At a time when the Palestinian Authority is keen on ensuring good relations with all Arab countries, they are not afraid to stand-off with countries such as Libya and Syria, and historically speaking relations with these countries have never been close. However the Palestinian Authority is surprised by the deterioration in its relationship with Tunisia, which has long embraced the revolution and its leaders.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the personal archive of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat which is present in Tunisia and under the protection of Tunisian security is the cause of this tension, after Tunis has refused a number of requests to hand this archive over to the Palestinian Authority. According to sources, Tunis informed the Palestinian Authority that Tunisian law decrees that this archive can only be handed over to one of Arafat’s next of kin.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected the logic behind this and considers Arafat’s archive to be the property of the Palestinian people. Yesterday Palestinian Interior Minster Said Abu Ali ended his visit to Tunis without being able to budge the Tunisian position. This is not the first time that Abbas has sent Palestinian officials to Tunisia to retrieve the Arafat archive who return empty handed.
Israeli sources said that “Arafat’s archive is a treasure trove of intelligence information about the heads of state of Arab and Islamic countries, and political, economic, military, and scientific figures in these countries. In addition to this [there is] information on high-ranking international figures and members of their family as well as information relating to Israel.” The Israeli sources said that due to the high intelligence value of this archive, Arafat decided to leave it in Tunis for safe keeping for fear of the Israelis trying to get their hands on it.
According to information, the Tunisian President rejected a Palestinian compromise that would have seen the Palestinian Authority make copies of the archive’s content, with the originals being left in Tunisia.
Among the other reasons that led to strain in the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia is the issue of a large number of Palestinian workers in Tunisia having their wages cut. This was an issue that led some Tunisian newspapers to write about the suffering of the Fatah cadres in Tunis. The Tunisian leadership either wants the Fatah cadres to return to Palestine, or to secure a decent standard of living in Tunis.