LONDON: Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, on Thursday said the historic deal between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo has boosted the chances of the UK recognizing the state of Palestine.
The two rival factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza including the key Rafah border crossing, a decade after seizing the enclave in a civil war.
The deal was brokered by Egypt and helps bridge the bitter and bloody gulf between the two Palestinian parties — the Western-backed Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas which has been in control of Gaza since 2007. The latter group is viewed as a terrorist organization by several countries including the US.
Speaking to Arab News, Hassassian said he was “optimistic” about the deal leading to the creation of a national unity government.
When asked if would help in Palestine’s bid to be recognized by the UK, Hassassian replied, “I think it will. It’s a good stepping stone in the right direction. It puts the country on the path to one president, one flag and one gun.”
Hassassian revealed that he is due to meet the UK minister of state for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, on Oct. 17 and that he would be raising the issue of Thursday’s deal.
“I will raise the reconciliation. We will discuss the arrangement and the future plans both short and long term,” he said.
While Hassassian viewed the deal as putting “Palestine on a better path” he also admitted it would be wrong to pin too many hopes on the Cairo agreement, pointing to the fact that many key issues — such as the control of arms in Gaza, and elections — are still to be agreed upon.
“We hope to conclude a transfer of power and achieve continuity between the West Bank and Gaza and hope it’s a prelude to a final reconciliation,” the ambassador said.
“We will deal with arms at a later stage, (whoever) controls the arms controls Gaza.
“This is just the first stage we are optimistic but cannot be too optimistic because the important question of arms and accepting the PLO’s policy of a two-state solution and recognition of Israel are still be agreed.
“We are in a wait-and-see situation. This is a good step in the right direction.”
Israel greeted the Cairo deal grudgingly, saying that it must abide by previous international agreements and terms set out by Middle East peace mediators — including the recognition of Israel and Hamas giving up its weapons.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters said, “Israel will examine developments in the field and act accordingly.”
Hamas’ decision to transfer administrative powers in Gaza to the Abbas government marks a major reversal and one which Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, said would be welcomed by most countries.
“The devil is always in the detail. We’ll see where this deal leads. The issues are still elections, legitimacy and who controls the Hamas military wing,” he told Arab News.
“I imagine the UK will be pragmatic about the deal and, quietly, be relatively satisfied that there is some political movement and that Hamas is getting involved in the Palestinian political system.
“Gaza is a tiny area with 2 million people and there is a need to see Palestine coming together as a single entity. In that regard I think most countries will welcome news of the deal.
“The US is completely different. The administration is very unpredictable and it will be interesting to see how it reacts.
“For the Palestinians the deal is the only way forward.”