Cairo has rolled up the red carpet and announced that Damascus-based Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal is unwelcome in the Egyptian capital. Officials in the Egyptian capital are hoping the ban will exert enough pressure to force Hamas into reconciling with its rival, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction.
Egypt has refused to meet with Mashaal until he cooperates with its efforts to re-establish a PA unity government. The last time external mediators – Saudi Arabian and Egyptian leaders – succeeded in forcing the two factions into a similar framework, the so-called “unity” lasted barely two days. Ultimately it dissolved into the bloody militia war that ended with Hamas seizing total control over Gaza, leaving Fatah as the ruling faction over the PA areas in Judea and Samaria.
Mashaal is also the Hamas official primarily responsible for repeatedly failed negotiations for the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage in Gaza since he was abducted by Hamas-linked terrorists in June 2006.
According to a report published Tuesday in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda, Egypt has made its position clear to a number of Arab states, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Mashaal had apparently appealed to both in hopes they would mediate between Hamas and Cairo.
However, Egypt maintained a firm stance in backing PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who said he would not meet with Mashaal unless Hamas signed an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation between the two factions. Egypt maintained that it had no objections to receiving a Hamas delegation to sign the document, “as it is and without amendments,” the paper reported.
Kuwait has been working to arrange a reconciliation summit between the two factions as a follow-up to Egypt’s negotiations, Kuwait Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al Sabah told reporters on Sunday. He noted that Abbas and Mashaal had both been to Kuwait in recent weeks to visit separately with its Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.