Rare Abbas call to Hamas chief boosts reconciliation

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from Hamas, right, raise their linked arms as they move through the crowd at a special session of parliament in Gaza City, March 17, 2007. (File photo by AP)
Updated 19 September 2017
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Rare Abbas call to Hamas chief boosts reconciliation

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territorie: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya spoke Monday for the first time in nearly a year, adding impetus to a surprise reconciliation between their factions locked in bitter dispute for 10 years.
Abbas spoke with Haniya by phone from New York and “expressed his satisfaction with the prevailing atmosphere of reconciliation,” according to a statement on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
A Hamas statement quoted Haniya as saying that Hamas was “determined to move ahead with steps to end the division, will all willingness and determination, with the goal of uniting our Palestinian people.”
A Hamas spokesman told AFP that the two had not spoken since meeting in Qatar in October 2016.
Hamas said Sunday it had agreed to demands by Abbas’s Fatah party to dissolve what is seen as a rival administration in Gaza, while saying it was ready for elections and negotiations toward forming a unity government.
As a first step toward implementing a larger agreement, Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah plans to visit Gaza City to meet Hamas officials and assert the government’s control over ministries, said Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Abbas.
“We await the first steps on the ground. We want to see Mr.Hamdallah received by Hamas, the door to all the ministries open,” he told journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“That really could happen in the next 24 hours.”
Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has international recognition, but it lost control of the Gaza Strip when the Islamist movement Hamas seized the territory in a near civil war in 2007.
Hamdallah last visited the coastal enclave in 2015, and a previous attempt at a unity government fell apart that year, with the two sides trading blame.
The head of the Arab League on Monday hailed the steps taken by Hamas and called for full reconciliation.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit “welcomes the important positive developments” regarding “ending the division” between the Palestinian factions, the Cairo-based organization’s spokesman Mahmoud Afifi said in a statement.
In recent months Abbas has sought to squeeze Hamas by reducing power supply to the strip, with the two million residents receiving only three or four hours of mains electricity per day as a result.
He has also reduced the salaries of some employees in Gaza, while the number of Gazans receiving PA permits to travel for medical care has declined.
Hamas on Monday called for the measures to be reversed after dissolving the so-called administrative committee, seen as a rival government and created in March.
In a statement they called on Abbas to “take urgent steps to cancel all his punitive decisions and measures against our people in the Strip.”
Shaath said Abbas wanted to reverse the punitive measures, but he did not give a timetable.
“When the president supported these economic measures (against Gaza) he said they will stop immediately once the self-rule governance of Hamas ends and the consensus government takes place. He didn’t put any other conditions whatsoever.”
Abbas is due to address world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, after meeting with US President Donald Trump.


Yemen groups agree to reopen Sanaa airport, still in talks on port at Sweden talks

Updated 12 December 2018
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Yemen groups agree to reopen Sanaa airport, still in talks on port at Sweden talks

  • Askar Zaeel, a member of the government delegation, said his camp would hold firm to UN Security Council Resolution 2216
  • Multiple draft proposals have been submitted to the two delegations over the past week

RIMBO, Sweden: Yemen's warring parties agreed on Wednesday to reopen Sanaa airport in the Houthi-held capital, sources said, as Western nations press the two sides to agree on confidence-building measures before the end of the first UN-led peace talks in two years.
The Iranian-backed Houthi movement and the Arab coalition-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi were still discussing a UN proposal on the contested port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to attend final talks in Sweden on Thursday to support his envoy's efforts to launch a political process to end the nearly four-year-old war. Another round of talks could be held in early 2019.
The Houthi militia hold most population centres, including Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa from which it ousted Hadi's government in 2014. The government is now based in the southern port of Aden.
The two parties agreed that international flights would stop at a government-held airport for inspections before flying in or out of Sanaa, two sources familiar with the talks said.
They have yet to agree on whether those inspections would be in Aden airport or that of Sayun, the sources added.
The Arab coalition intervened in the war in 2015 to restore Hadi's government controls the air space.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths, trying to avert a full-scale assault on Hodeidah, where coalition forces have massed on the outskirts, is asking both sides to withdraw from the city.
His proposal envisions an interim entity being formed to run the city and port and international monitors being deployed.
Asked if the government could accept that proposal, culture minister Marwan Dammaj said: "We are still discussing it."
Both sides have agreed to a UN role in the port, the entry point for most of Yemen's commercial imports and vital aid, but differ on who should run the city. The Houthi militia want Hodeidah declared a neutral zone, while Hadi's government believes the city should fall under its control as a matter of sovereignty.
"The devil is in the details - withdraw how far (from Hodeidah), the sequence, who governs and delivers services," said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
They have also yet to agree on shoring up the central bank, and on a transitional governing body, although a deal was struck on a prisoner swap that could see 15,000 prisoners released.