Abbas, Sissi hold rare meet on backdrop of ceasefire, reconciliation efforts
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Abbas, Sissi hold rare meet on backdrop of ceasefire, reconciliation efforts

Last publicly known time Palestinian, Egyptian leaders met was 10 months ago; Abbas praises Cairo’s ‘efforts’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi met on Saturday in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh, the official PA news agency Wafa reported.

The last publicly known time the two leaders held a bilateral meeting was some ten months ago.

“The two presidents discussed developments in the Middle East, especially those related to Palestine in light of the dangers the Palestinian issue is facing,” the Wafa report said.

Abbas arrived in Egypt on Friday to meet Sissi and attend a conference in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The PA president also praised Sissi “for the efforts the Arab Republic of Egypt has exerted” under his leadership, without elaborating.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

Azzam al-Ahmad, a Palestine Liberation Organization official who attended the meeting between the two leaders, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Egypt has recently made efforts to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, meeting with leaders from the two rival parties for separate talks in the past several weeks.

In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered deal to advance reconciliation and bring the West Bank and Gaza under one government, but they failed to implement it.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory in 2007.

Egypt, alongside United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has also recently played a key role in attempts to mediate a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

Arabic media reports have said that if achieved, a ceasefire would include at least a partial lifting of Israel’s restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza.

Israel holds that its restrictions on movement serve security purposes including preventing the entry of weapons into the Strip.

Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have said Fatah-Hamas reconciliation should precede any possible ceasefire. They have also contended that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the sole party with the legitimacy to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel.

Illustrative: Protesters wave Palestinian flags while riding a truck full with tires near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel during a protest east of Gaza City, Friday, October 26, 2018. (AP/Adel Hana)

Egyptian intelligence officials were present at protests in the border region between Israel and Gaza on Friday, Deputy Hamas Chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya told the London-based Al-Ghad TV.

Friday’s rallies were largely peaceful. Hayya said the protests were scaled down to give the ceasefire efforts a chance, according to the Associated Press.

The protests, which have included many violent acts, have taken place weekly since March 30. Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands which are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Hayya suggested efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had been making progress.

“Their success is becoming visible in the horizon,” he told Al-Ghad TV, referring to the efforts to conclude a ceasefire.

On Saturday, the Egyptian Intelligence officials left Gaza through the Erez crossing, according to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center.

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