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Abbas asks France to lobby Hamas allies for Gaza truce

July 18, 2014 9:16 P.M. (Updated: July 19, 2014 10:25 P.M.)
CAIRO (AFP) -- Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas reached out for French help Friday to lobby Hamas's regional allies to influence it into accepting a truce with Israel, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

Egypt-mediated talks to end the escalating Gaza Strip war have faltered, with Hamas insisting on a comprehensive ceasefire that would end the Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave, Palestinian officials said.

Abbas asked France to lobby Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey to pressure the militants into accepting the truce, Fabius told reporters after meeting the Palestinian leader in Cairo.

He said he had called his Qatari counterpart after Abbas's request and added he would also contact Ankara.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood from power last year, has sought to isolate Hamas allies and initially demanded that the militants unconditionally accept a truce to end the 11-day war, as Israel already had.

The truce stipulated a ceasefire first, followed by easing restrictions on border crossings and negotiations later -- something Hamas says it cannot trust Israel to commit to.

Cairo has worked instead to bolster the role of Abbas -- its ally based in the West Bank and rival to Hamas -- in reaching a deal to end the conflict which has killed at least 278 Palestinians since July 8.

Egypt has also rejected demands by Hamas to involve Turkey and Qatar -- both regional rivals to Egypt's new government -- in the process, Palestinian officials said.

"We demand a complete agreement and the end of the siege. The (Egyptians) respond that Israel can't accept this," said a senior Hamas official.

Pressure on Hamas

Abbas met Fabius at Cairo airport before leaving for Turkey.

"He (Abbas) asked me to contact the Turks and Qataris with whom we have good relations, because they themselves can exert a particular influence on Hamas," Fabius said.

"There can be influences that I hope can let Hamas accept the ceasefire that it has refused," Fabius said.

Later he told reporters that he called Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah.

"He said that in his view, Hamas hopes for there to be negotiation points before a ceasefire , especially relating to the blockade," Fabius said.

It was unclear how receptive Turkey would be to such lobbying.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan again attacked Sisi on Friday, branding him a "tyrant" and suggesting he was unfit to mediate a ceasefire.

The senior Hamas official said the militants, who rejected an initial Egypt-proposed truce they said ignored their demands, will not back down even as Israel launched a ground incursion into Gaza overnight on Thursday.

Hamas also insists that Israel release Palestinian prisoners it had freed but rearrested and lift its siege of Gaza, Ahmed told AFP.

Egypt's foreign ministry has condemned the ground incursion but also lashed out at Hamas, saying the Islamist movement could have saved dozens of lives had it accepted Cairo's proposal.

Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, shares borders with both Israel and Gaza.

Israel has blockaded the coastal strip since Hamas came into power in 2006, and Hamas later expelled Abbas's Fatah party from the enclave in a week of bloody clashes following what they called a coup attempt against the Hamas government.

Abbas and Hamas have agreed on a unity government of technocrats to end their seven-year split, but Israel has strongly opposed the unity deal.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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