Factions Untied by Government Stances: Abbas

CAIRO – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asserted Monday, February 26, that factions whose candidates will assume posts in the incoming national unity government are not required to abide by the cabinet’s stances.

"The government is a coalition of numerous and different parties, therefore, only ministers — and not their factions — should abide by its stances," Abbas told a press conference in Cairo following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Abbas’s once-dominant Fatah movement and the ruling Hamas signed a power-sharing agreement in the holy city of Makkah on February 8.

"The countries of the world welcomed the Makkah agreement but have demanded the Palestinians to be more clear on the principle of recognition instead of just talking of previous accords," with Israel, Abbas said.

The Palestinian leader reiterated his commitment on the two-state solution and the signed agreements with Israel.

The participation of two delegations to represent Hamas and the government in the crisis talks were seen by experts as an attempt by the resistance group to draw a line between its stances and those of the government.

Abbas’s remarks seem to reinforce the same message, allowing the government to accept what Hamas as a group might oppose.

The Palestinian leader, who arrived later Monday in the United Arab Emirates, is on a foreign tour to garner support for the unity agreement and urge Arab countries to help lift the political and economic boycott imposed by the West.

Israel and major power mediators grouped in the Middle East Quartet have imposed a financial and diplomatic boycott on the outgoing government since Hamas was democratically elected to power in January 2006.

The Quartet — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia — insist that any government must meet three conditions before lifting the boycott: recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and respect past peace accords signed with Tel Aviv.

Communication Channel
Meanwhile, Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, began Monday a visit to Russia to enlist its support for lifting sanctions on the Palestinians.

"Our goal is to encourage the international community to lift the blockade on the people of Palestine and pressurize Israel to recognize the Palestinian state’s right to exist," he said.

Meshaal, who visited Egypt before Moscow, said he had Arab backing for the unity government.

"There is an Arab consensus on Makkah’s agreement which we have accepted as a base for forming a unity government."

Russia is alone among the Quartet in maintaining diplomatic ties with the Hamas-led government and has criticized the economic embargo.

Experts say that Meshaal was likely to try to use Moscow as the channel of communication to other Quartet leaders.

"Meshaal needs Russia’s assistance first and foremost in unblocking the international aid," Vitaly Naumkin, head of Russia’s Arab Research Center, told the Vesti-24 news channel.

He said Meshaal’s visit to Moscow this time was different.

"The West now views our contacts as useful."

Meshaal’s visit to Moscow last year, defying a Western boycott on talks with Hamas, provoked protests from Israel and Washington.

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