Davutoğlu hopeful for Palestinian unity after talks with Mashaal

April 08, 2011, Friday/ 18:26:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has expressed optimism for prospects of an end to a rift between Palestinian factions, warning that the latest upheaval in the Middle East region should not lead to ignoring the Palestinian issue.

Davutoğlu was speaking to reporters in Damascus late on Wednesday after having a meeting with Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal at the Turkish Embassy in the Syrian capital. Earlier in the day he had separate talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem, to discuss the unrest shaking Syria.

Recalling that during a telephone conversation with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on March 31 he had conveyed his support of the Palestinian leader’s recent announcement in which he said he intends to visit the Gaza Strip in a bid to end a more than three-year split with the Hamas movement that governs the territory, Davutoğlu said Turkey approaches positively all kinds of initiatives aimed at maintaining national reconciliation in Palestine. He shared this view with Mashaal too, Davutoğlu added.

“We are not in a position to persuade one side on behalf of the other side. The positive thing is that both sides want that national reconciliation secured as soon as possible,” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

“While Mr. Abbas gives priority to forming the government, Mr. Mashaal gives priority to accomplishing the reconciliation in its all elements. We have gotten the impression that a common ground can be established,” Davutoğlu added.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is at the core of the wave of change in the Middle East and many other problems,” he underlined. “A possible crisis in Palestine ... would cause greater instability in the region,” he said. “Israel’s recent operations on the Gaza Strip have posed a great risk.”

In regards to Egypt’s ongoing efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, Davutoğlu said: “Egypt has made very valuable contributions on this issue. We have not been attempting to bring the role it [Egypt] played to Turkey. We believe that, with the latest change in the region, Egypt will make many more valuable contributions, in particular, on the Palestine issue. We believe that we will be engaged in efforts that are not alternatives but that are complementary to each other.”

Meanwhile, a report published by an Egyptian newspaper said Abbas declined Hamas’ offer Thursday to meet with Mashaal in Turkey to discuss reconciliation. Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram cited remarks by a senior Palestinian source. Al-Ahram reported that the Hamas proposal included their willingness to hold elections in the Palestinian parliament and the National Council; however, Hamas suggested postponing the presidential elections to a later date.

Abbas rejected Hamas’ proposal, explaining he believes postponing presidential elections will cause those opposing dialogue to declare him an illegal president, thereby compromising his ability to represent the Palestinian Authority in reconciliation talks. The Palestinian source suggested that Abbas, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for a four-day visit, had said the meeting with Mashaal in Turkey would be considered a move that nullifies the Egyptian document of understanding between Hamas and Fatah created during former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

Hamas further suggested that Gaza Strip authorities be accountable for Hamas, while the West Bank authorities take responsibility for Fatah. Hamas also announced it would agree to postpone the Palestine Liberation Organization’s reorganization until the parliamentary elections. Nonetheless, Hamas said the İstanbul meeting would not overshadow Egypt’s crucial role, where they would like the final agreement to be signed.

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