RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) – The Qatari foreign minister was due in Gaza City Monday to mediate between the feuding Palestinian factions in an effort to form a national unity government, a senior official said.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al Thani was to meet separately in Gaza City with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, of the Fatah movement, and prime minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He will discuss the forming of a national unity government and will try to bring both sides closer.”
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina confirmed the Palestinian president would meet Sheikh Hamad “in order to continue discussion which started last week” when Abbas visited the Qatari capital Doha.
According to the official, the Qatari foreign minister asked to meet Abbas on Monday following talks he was planned to hold with Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.
Qatar boasts strong ties with the Islamic militant movement, which has so far rejected huge pressure from the West and Abbas to take part in a unity government committed to recognizing Israel and past peace deals.
Sheikh Hamad met Meshaal last week and presented a series of proposals aimed at reaching a breakthrough in the stalled unity talks.
Hamas agreed a national unity deal in September based on a reconcilation document it approved in June but the movement’s leaders later made clear that their agreement did not amount to any recognition of Israel, even implicit.
Abbas last week gave Hamas another fortnight to accept a platform acceptable to Western donors, saying there was no longer any dialogue and efforts needed to start again from the beginning.
The talks have since been further overshadowed by violence on the streets of the Palestinian territories between loyalists of Hamas and Fatah, which has claimed some dozen lives in recent days.
Qatar also has commercial ties with Israel, which has had a trade mission in Doha since 1996.
© Khaleej Times Online (October 9, 2006)