Abbas talks reconciliation with Hamas leader, but is mum on ending sanctions
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Abbas talks reconciliation with Hamas leader, but is mum on ending sanctions

Hamas says PA must resume its responsibilities in Gaza immediately, now that it’s dissolved its own governing body in the Strip

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and then Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, raise their linked arms as they move through the crowd at a special session of parliament in Gaza City, March 17, 2007. (AP/Hatem Moussa/File)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and then Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, raise their linked arms as they move through the crowd at a special session of parliament in Gaza City, March 17, 2007. (AP/Hatem Moussa/File)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a phone call with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Monday, said that he was pleased with the “atmosphere” created by the terror group’s recent decision to dissolve what is seen as a rival administration in Gaza, but didn’t commit to removing PA sanctions on the Strip.

Hamas announced Sunday it had agreed to demands by Abbas’s Fatah party to dissolve its so-called administrative committee, while saying it was ready for elections and negotiations toward forming a unity government.

Abbas told Haniyeh, according to statements carried on the PA’s official news outlet Wafa, that he “is satisfied with the atmosphere of reconciliation” in the wake of the Hamas’s decision.

In a statement carried on Hamas’s website, Haniyeh also said the decision had led to a positive atmosphere between the two sides and wished Abbas good luck in representing the Palestinians in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

Hamas, however, in a statement published a little while before the two spoke on the phone, called on Abbas to allow his government in the West Bank city of Ramallah to “immediately” begin taking up its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, and to reverse the sanctions it placed on the enclave.

In recent months, Abbas has sought to squeeze Hamas by reducing the power supply to the Strip, and now the enclave’s two million residents receive only three or four hours of mains electricity per day. 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.

Palestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power outage in Gaza City on September 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah plans to travel to Gaza City to meet Hamas leaders and assert the PA government’s control over ministries, Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Abbas, told journalists earlier Monday in Ramallah, as a first step toward implementing a larger agreement.

“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 said. “That really could happen in the next 24 hours.”

Abbas’s internationally recognized PA’s seat of power is in the West Bank, but it has had no control in Gaza for a decade — after Hamas seized the Strip following bloody clashes with Fatah in 2007.

Hamdallah has not visited Gaza since 2015, and a previous attempt at a unity government fell apart that year, with the two sides exchanging blame.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (right) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at Haniyeh’s house in Gaza City, October 9, 2014.(AFP/Said Khatib)

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.”

Before his address to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Abbas is due to meet with US President Donald Trump.

AFP contributed to this report. 

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