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No Hamas reconciliation as tensions grow between Abbas and Egypt's Sisi

Senior Hamas officials say the Palestinian president showed 'no flexibility' during rare meeting between the estranged groups
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (AFP)

RAMALLAH, Palestine – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has failed to resolve his stand-off with Egypt or Hamas, according to senior officials who spoke to Middle East Eye.

The officials told MEE the recent meeting between Abbas and top Hamas leaders in Doha made no progress toward ending the long-running split between the two camps.

Dr Khalil al-Hayeh, a member of Hamas's political bureau, said that Abbas “clung to his old positions and showed no flexibility in the meeting".

Another senior Hamas official in Doha said President Abbas reiterated formerly stated positions on the security apparatus, salaries of Hamas-appointed employees, crossings, elections, and legislative council, saying this was why the meeting failed to make headway.

Gaza has been controlled by Hamas since 2006, after the group won the Palestinian legislative elections.

Relations between Fatah and Hamas soured after clashes and the failure to form a unity government in the aftermath of the elections. Repeated attempts at reconciliation, led by Cairo, Doha and Ankara have failed.

Abbas met with the Hamas officials during his recent trip to Turkey and Qatar. He made no stop in Cairo, which the officials said suggested lingering tensions with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

One Hamas official, who spoke in condition of anonymity, said he believed that Abbas “came to Doha and Istanbul just to send a message to Egypt that he is not isolated and he has good ties with regional players".

The relationship between President Abbas and Egypt's leader has deteriorated in the last couple of months, with Abbas decrying what he has called “Egyptian intervention in Palestinian affairs".

Egypt has reportedly led efforts to press Abbas to bring exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan backed into Palestinian politics.

When Abbas rejected the efforts, Egyptian intelligence held a conference in Cairo discussing the relationship between Egypt and the Palestinian cause, which one Palestinian official said was an attempt by Egyptian intelligence to put more pressure on Abbas.

The official said Egyptian intelligence officers made phone calls to Palestinian study centers in Ramallah and tried to persuade them to participate in the conference in Cairo.

“That was a stark intervention in our affairs,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Dahlan enjoys the regional support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. UAE leaders have also tried to persuade Saudi Arabia that Dahlan is a strong potential successor to octagenarian Abbas.

Abbas plans to hold a Fatah party convention by the end of November, which he is expected to use to block Dahlan's return.

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