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Abbas arrives in Cairo ahead of meeting with Egyptian president

July 8, 2017 10:46 P.M. (Updated: July 9, 2017 1:56 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Cairo on Saturday on an official visit to Egypt, and will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday.

Palestinian Authority-owned Wafa news agency reported that Abbas was received at Cairo International Airport by Egyptian Electricity Minister Muhammad Shakir al-Marqabi and other Egyptian officials, along with PA ambassador to Egypt and to the Arab League Jamal Shubaki.

Accompanying Abbas on his visit was his official spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeina, head of the Fatah bloc at the Palestinian parliament Azzam al-Ahmad, Abbas' diplomatic advisor Majdi al-Khalidi, and chief of the PA general intelligence Majid Faraj.

According to Wafa, Abbas met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri at the presidential palace Cairo, when the Palestinian president updated Shukri “on the latest developments of the Palestinian cause,” as well as “ongoing efforts to recruit international support” for ending the Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly escalating settlement expansion.

Abbas also affirmed that the PA would continue to support Egypt in its “war on terrorism” and against "whoever attempts to harm Egypt's national security,” Wafa reported.

The Palestinian president also reiterated that the two-state solution remained the only and "irreplaceable" solution to the question of Palestine.

Abbas later met with secretary-general of the Arab League Ahmad Abu al-Gheit and other Arab League officials. Wafa said the president updated Abu al-Gheit on PA efforts to end the Israeli occupation, highlighting the recent UNESCO decision to inscribe Hebron’s Old City and Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque on the World Heritage in Danger list, after the issue was submitted by the Palestinians.

Abbas’ visit comes amid reports that his Ramallah-based administration has been moving to block the growing alliance between Gaza’s de facto leaders Hamas and Egypt, particularly since fuel deliveries from Egypt that arrived in late June served to avert a full humanitarian collapse in Gaza, after Israel drastically reduced its fuel supplies at the request of the PA.

Coinciding with Abbas' arrival to Cairo on Saturday, Gaza’s power authority accused the PA of freezing all money transfers from Palestinian banks to Egypt, which resulted in Egyptian authorities halting the fuel deliveries for want of payment, thus reducing total power supply in Gaza by between 33 and 50 percent.

The PA has also been the center of widespread condemnation in recent weeks for a list of other detrimental policies in Gaza aimed at putting pressure on Hamas to relinquish control of the besieged coastal enclave and hand over the territory to the PA.

Most recently, the PA announced on Tuesday that it had decided to push more than 6,000 civil servants from the besieged Gaza Strip into early retirement. Other recent PA measures included cutting the pay of PA employees in Gaza, suspending payments to prisoners, and restricting funding for medical treatments for Gazan residents.

Meanwhile, Hamas and Egypt have enjoyed warming relations. A Hamas delegation headed to Cairo last week to continue talks on recently reached understandings, particularly increased security cooperation along Gaza’s southern border with the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt has been waging a harsh ‘counterterrorism’ crackdown.

While Hamas has consistently denied Egypt’s allegations of involvement in the Sinai insurgency, the Palestinian political faction has a vested interest in improving ties with Egypt, amid a diplomatic siege by Egypt and other Arab countries on Hamas’ long-time supporter Qatar, where the former head of Hamas’ politburo was based.

Now that Hamas’ leadership is concentrated in Gaza, the political party is dependent on the goodwill of the Egyptian government to maintain its leaders’ freedom of movement through their shared border, where Cairo has enforced a brutal, decade-long Israeli siege. Some reports have suggested that Hamas is hoping that negotiations with Egypt will culminate in the permanent reopening of the Rafah crossing.

In a report, Israeli news daily Haaretz quoted a “senior Palestinian official” who said that during Abbas’ meeting with al-Sisi, he will warn about the possible implications of opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza without coordinating it first within the PA.

Hamas’ strengthened relationship with Egypt also comes amid a growing alliance with discharged Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan -- with whom Hamas has confirmed an alliance to challenge the PA.
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