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Tunisian President Postpones Gaza Visit

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has postponed his visit to Gaza until March after talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/28/2013, 6:44 AM

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
Reuters

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has postponed his visit to Gaza until March, his office said Sunday, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.

Marzouki had planned to visit the coastal territory in early February, but the Tunisian official's office told Ma’an the trip had been postponed after talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

"The decision to postpone the visit until the end of March aims to allow the path of reconciliation to progress," the Tunisian president's office said.

Hamas, which violently took over Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah faction in 2007, announced last week that Marzouki’s visit would take place on February 9.

Such visits have irked Fatah and Abbas, who sees the visits as weakening him and his power over PA Arabs. The visits also strengthen Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by many countries.

Last week, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers, pledging solidarity with PA Arabs and throwing his support behind reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah.

Najib's visit drew criticism from the office of Abbas, who released a statement saying the PA “announces its rejection and condemnation of the Malaysian prime minister's visit to Gaza.”

“It undermines Palestinian representation and reinforces the division and does not serve Palestinian interests," the statement continued, saying Abbas's bureau would ask Kuala Lumpur "for clarification."

The Malaysian premier’s visit is the latest in a string of high-profile trips to Gaza, following a landmark trip last October by Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who became the first head of state to visit the region since Hamas took control in 2007.

During last November's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, a delegation of Arab foreign ministers, along with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, visited the area.

Also during Pillar of Defense, Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil visited the coastal enclave.

Fatah and Hamas, in a bitter war since 2007, signed an Egyptian-sponsored unity agreement last year. The main terms of the deal, however, have yet to be implemented due to ongoing differences over who should head up the proposed coalition government.