Quartet welcomes PA’s return to Gaza as part of reconciliation with Hamas
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Quartet welcomes PA’s return to Gaza as part of reconciliation with Hamas

Envoys from US, Russia, EU and UN say resumption of Palestinian Authority control in Strip is 'critical' for reaching 'lasting peace'

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)
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)

Envoys from the United States, Russia, European Union, and United Nations — the so-called Middle East Quartet — on Thursday welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s impending return to the Gaza Strip as part of renewed reconciliation efforts with the Hamas terror group, which runs the enclave.

In a statement, the Quartet praised Egypt’s efforts in helping to push Hamas to take steps toward rapprochement with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, which is based in the West Bank. It said renewed PA control over Gaza “is critical for efforts to reach lasting peace.”

“[The envoys] urge the parties to take concrete steps to reunite Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority. This will facilitate lifting the closures of the crossings, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, and unlock international support for Gaza’s growth, stability and prosperity, which is critical for efforts to reach lasting peace,” the Quartet said.

“The Quartet envoys stand ready to engage with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the region in support of this process,” the statement said.

The Quartet also called for the international community to address the “grave humanitarian situation” in Gaza, which has been made worse in recent months as Abbas squeezed Hamas by reducing the power supply to the Strip and slashing the salaries of some employees in Gaza.

“The Envoys emphasize that the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis and its impact on health, social and economic well-being of the population, must be addressed. The Quartet encourages the international community to act accordingly.”

Founded in Madrid in 2002, the Quartet comprises four countries and international bodies involved in mediating the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. The group has been accused by Israel of anti-Israel bias, and by the Arab nations of anti-Palestinian bias.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (center), arrives at the Palestinian side of the Beit Hanoun border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, October 9, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)

As part of the reconciliation efforts, the PA said Monday that PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will travel to Gaza next week to begin reasserting PA control.

Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since Hamas violently took control of the Strip in 2007, with the two groups operating separate administrations.

Hamas said a week ago it had agreed to steps toward resolving the split with Abbas’s Fatah, announcing it would dissolve a body seen as a rival government — known as the administrative committee — and was ready to hold elections.

The statement came after Hamas leaders held talks with Egyptian officials and as Gaza faces a mounting humanitarian crisis.

It remains unclear whether the steps will result in further concrete action toward ending the deep division with Fatah, as a number of previous reconciliation efforts have failed to bring the two sides together.

Hamas for now continues to run a de facto separate administration in Gaza and is in charge of the security forces there.

While Abbas welcomed Hamas’s dissolution of the administrative committee, he didn’t commit to removing PA sanctions on the Strip.

The latest reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas come as US President Donald Trump has sought to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and met separately with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

US President Donald Trump's peace envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) tours the area around the Gaza Strip with Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Yoav 'Poly' Mordechai on August 30, 2017. (COGAT Spokesperson's Office)
US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) tours the area around the Gaza Strip with Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Yoav ‘Poly’ Mordechai on August 30, 2017. (COGAT Spokesperson’s Office)

Speaking at a conference of international donors last week, Trump’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt slammed Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip and called on the PA to retake control of Gaza and urged the international community to help this process come to fruition.

“Relief from the suffering in Gaza can only be found when all interested parties gather together to help the Palestinian people and isolate Hamas,” he said, accusing Hamas of using money meant for Gaza’s civilian population on terror infrastructure.

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