Fatah places conditions on Yemeni initiative in Palestine [Archives:2007/1076/Front Page]

August 13 2007

SANA'A, August 12 ) Despite welcoming the Yemeni initiative to help form a united Palestinian government, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas restated his refusal to engage in any dialogue with Hamas until Gaza returns to his authority.

President Saleh's initiative to resolve the crisis between Fatah and Hamas was revealed on Thursday after a visit to Sana'a by exiled, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, who came to Yemen in response to an invitation from President Saleh in an attempt to “reinstate dialogue between Fatah and Hamas and prevent further separation between the two movements.”

Speaking to reporters before leaving Yemen, Meshaal hailed Saleh's proposals as “balanced” and said he hoped they would lead to an agreement.

The mediation recommendations were also welcomed by Ismail Haniya, Hamas prime minister. During a Friday prayer sermon, Haniya showed appreciation for Yemen's support of Palestinian conciliation, repeating three times, “We agree with the Yemeni initiative.”

An official Yemeni source told AFP (Agence France-Presse) that Saleh's four-point plan states that a solution should be based on a wide-ranging agreement reached by Palestinian factions in Cairo in 2005, as well as the Saudi-sponsored Mecca-accord between Hamas and Fatah that led to the formation of a short-lived Palestinian unity government earlier this year.

The Yemeni proposal calls for dialogue conducive to “preserving the unity of the West Bank and Gaza,” currently split between Fatah and Hamas, and “the unity of the Palestinian authority” by establishing a single government in both Palestinian territories.

The proposal also calls for “respect for Palestinian legitimacy… and the rebuilding of security forces on nationalist and professional grounds.”

Security forces would be unified and come under the control of the Palestinian authority and government, not Palestinian factions, the source stated.

President Saleh also called for a committee comprised of a number of Arab countries that would follow up implementation of both the Cairo and Mecca deals. Yemen and other Arab states that support Palestinian unification would “put pressure” on Fatah and Hamas to resume talks on the basis of the Yemeni blueprint, the source said.

However, senior Palestinian officials revealed to The Jerusalem Post that Abbas rejected President Saleh's proposal. The officials stated that Saleh phoned Abbas and informed him that Hamas had accepted the initiative and was willing to resume talks with Fatah to resolve the Palestinain authority crisis.

The newspaper quoted Abbas Thursday as stating that he did not rule out the possibility of talking to Hamas. But he reiterated his condition that Hamas first backtrack from its takeover of the Gaza Strip.

“When Hamas reverses its actions in the Gaza Strip, we will consider our steps,” Abbas told reporters in Amman after meeting with Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Al-Bakhit and Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah Al-Khatib.

“We maintain our position that says if Hamas retracts from what it committed in Gaza, then we will see how we handle the situation,” he stated.

Abbas is facing growing pressure from some Arab governments and Fatah leaders to patch up his differences with Hamas and to agree to the formation of a united government. On Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also urged Abbas to resume talks with Hamas.