Abbas in Cairo for Hamas Talks
Palestinian Authority chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for unity talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on the formation of a national unity government.
As respective leaders of bitterly feuding factions, the two men have struggled to implement the terms of a reconciliation deal signed in Cairo last May.
The agreement calls for the formation of an interim government of independents to pave the way for presidential and legislative elections within a year.
Representatives from both Abbas' Fatah and Hamas movements have met multiple times to try to hammer out a final line-up for the government and agree on who would head it.
The impasse appeared to be solved with the selection of Abbas to serve as the prime minister of the new government, but a legal challenge from within Fatah's ranks could scuttle the deal.
Under the PA constitution's separation of powers, a sitting president has the power to dismiss his prime minister. However, Abbas already serves as president, raising a conflict of interests.
Abbas has refused to hold new presidential elections, now two years overdue, and might have to step down to head the new government.
Earlier on Wednesday, members of Hamas' leadership told the official MENA News Agency that the deal must be implemented in a "thorough and honest" way.
"We stress the need for thorough and honest implementation of the reconciliation agreements of Cairo and Doha to end the division and unify the national front," they said in a statement after meeting in Cairo.
The Cairo talks come before Abbas and Meshaal are to take part in two rounds of meetings with the leadership of all factions, including Islamic Jihad, on Thursday and Friday.
PLO Secretary General Wasil Abu Yousif told the Bethleham-based Maan News Agency, "Reconciliation and evaluation of the performance of the committees which emerged from the Cairo agreement will dominate the agenda.”
Abu Yousef added that the meeting would place special emphasis on restructuring the PLO and reactivating its role as the "sole and legitimate representative" of the "Palestinian people."
Abu Yousef's remarks echo previous statements he has made indicating that the PLO leadership intends to "downgrade" all agreements with Israel in favor of "resistance" and a unilateral track.
Last December, Abu Youself announced the PLO had adopted "a strategy based on continuous efforts along with the international community to secure full recognition and full United Nations membership, pursuing internal reconciliation, and keeping up the popular resistance."
"Resistance" is a PLO buzz word for terror. While Yousuf did not define "popular resistance," regional observers note Article 9 of the PLO charter continues to assert, "Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”
It also maintains “Palestine” is defined by the British Mandate and is “indivisible” – thus leaving no room for Israel to exist at all.
PLO officials have refused to amend their charter numerous times since the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed.
PLO official Saeb Erekat, Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad, and presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeina will accompany Abbas in his Cairo visit.
Israeli leaders have made it clear that they will not negotiate with any PA government that includes Hamas or its terror cofederates.