Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed not to foil efforts to reach an agreement in the Gaza Strip following Egyptian pressure, Saudi owned Al-Hayat newspaper reported Thursday.
This means that Abbas will not impose new sanctions on the Strip and will resume payments to Palestinian Authority employees in Gaza.
Abbas was pressured to this position by Egypt's president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, according to the Arabic daily, but stipulated that an agreement must later be reached that will restore Palestinian Authority control of the strip.
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Abbas' backing is crucial for any deal as the party retains a large presence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and has overall control in areas under Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. Israeli security establishment has warned against moving forward with reconciliation without Abbas' involvement.
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The deal under discussion, brokered by Egypt and the United Nations, is aimed at easing violence on the Gaza border between Israel and Gaza. At the same time, Egypt is said to be working toward an internal Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, although no breakthrough has been reported.
The two presidents met at an international conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, where al-Sissi pressured Abbas to ease the sanctions as part of the Egyptian effort to advance a deal on Gaza. The head of Egyptian intelligence, Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel, participated in the meeting, as did the PA officials responsible for the negotiations on the reconciliation, Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad and the Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh.
Egypt has warned that it will withdraw as mediator and sponsor of the negotiations and will work exclusively with Hamas as sovereign of Gaza if Abbas doesn't cooperate.
In a statement sent from Abbas' office after the meeting, it was said that the two leaders discussed recent developments in the Middle East and possible dangers to Palestinians, and that they agreed to continue their coordination regarding the talks and the Palestinian reconciliation process.
According to Al-Hayat, the deal will be divided into two parts. The first will take between two and three weeks, while the second will last six months, during which the Egyptian security delegation will work to advance the inter-Palestinian reconciliation according to principles agreed upon in 2011 and 2014. According to those principles, the PA will restore its control of the Strip and a unity government will be established that will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in Gaza and the West Bank.
The first phase of the calm went into effect last week, with the reduction of violence along the border fence with Israel, the increase in the number of daily hours of electricity supply due to the fuel Qatar supplies to the power plant and Qatar's payment of salaries to Hamas civil servants.
Palestinian factions decided on Thursday to put an end to the violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border and stop the launching of airborne firebombs, a senior Hamas official told Haaretz. According to the official, the protesters will also stop setting tires on fire and approaching the Israeli side of the border.
In Gaza, further relief is expected in the coming days given Abbas' cooperation, including export of agricultural produce, clothes and furniture to the Israeli market and to the West Bank.
Gaza's Finance Ministry announced Tuesday it will pay officials 60 percent of their July salaries as part of the talks to ease violence along the Gaza border.
Reports from Gaza said that the payment was authorized during joint talks to end violence in the area and that Qatar would foot the bill for the salaries. Egypt and the United Nations' special Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov are involved in the negotiations.
After Hamas seized control of Gaza, PA President Mahmoud Abbas ordered his officials employed in Gaza not to work under the Hamas government. The decision affected 65,000 civil servants and security staff. The PA promised to continue to pay their salaries even if they weren’t working, while Hamas pressed at least some, mainly in the health system, to return to work. It also hired 45,000 civil servants to fill the void. They were paid from tax proceeds collected by Hamas.