Palestinian leader Abbas to visit Ankara

Mahmoud Abbas

January 01, 2010, Friday/ 15:39:00
Amid concerns stemming from a year-long deadlock in the Middle East peace process, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will pay a visit to Ankara next week, marking his third visit to the Turkish capital in the last 12 months.

Abbas’ visit will take place on Jan. 6-7, when he will hold talks with President Abdullah Gül. The Palestinian leader had visited Ankara in February and July during in the past year. In the past year, Gül held two telephone conversations with Abbas as well.

As was the case in earlier talks between Abbas and Gül, the dispute between Abbas’ Fatah and the Hamas group will be a key agenda item during next week’s talks. Gül is expected to reiterate the importance Turkey attaches to maintaining national reconciliation among the groups for the sake of the Palestinian cause.

Ankara has repeatedly stated that unless rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas can reach a reconciliation, the absence of Palestinian unity will be harmful not only for Palestinians but will also have negative impacts all over the region.

In November, Abbas gave a televised speech in which he said he would not seek re-election in polls originally scheduled for Jan. 24. The elections commission, however, said that given the rift between Hamas and Fatah, each trying to administer the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, this date would not be possible. The Palestine Liberation Organization Central Committee extended Abbas’ term to June 28.

As of Wednesday, during a visit to Riyadh, Abbas said the stalled peace process is the reason he will not run for a second term in office. “The objective is to achieve a final-status solution for the Palestinian cause, but the matter is still held up now and that is why I do not want to run for a second term,” Abbas was quoted as saying while visiting Saudi Arabia.

During a telephone conversation held in November, Gül had urged Abbas to rethink his decision concerning the next elections. The issue is very likely to be discussed during the Ankara talks.

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