( dpa ) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his rivals in the militant Hamas group vehemently rejected Wednesday each other's positions on who will control the Gaza Strip's breached border as Egypt tries to resolve the crisis in separate talks with both sides.
After talks with Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak, Abbas emphatically confirmed his position on the border breaches and disputed Hamas' legitimacy in a further escalation of the animosity between them.
"We said we are ready to take control of border crossings on the condition that international agreements be carried out. I mean the five-sided agreements between us, Egypt, Israel, the US and the EU," Abbas said at a press conference.
He was referring to a 2005 agreement to run the Egypt-Gaza border involving the Palestinian Authority and the four other parties.
But since June last year, the Gaza Strip has fallen under the control of Hamas after deadly clashes with Abbas' Fatah fighters. Abbas has now no control over Gaza so it is not clear how he would restore control over the border crossings if Hamas has the command on the ground.
Responding to rocket attacks from there, Israel recently tightened its already stringent economic blockade on the Gaza Strip. Last week Palestinian gunmen, reportedly of Hamas, breached Gaza's southern border, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to cross into Egypt to stock up on scarce supplies.
Mediation efforts to revive a dialogue between Hamas and Fatah have been fruitless. Abbas has made it even more difficult for any dialogue to take place by calling Hamas' authority "illegitimate" because it resulted from a "coup."
"Unless Hamas reverses its coup and accepts international legitimacy and the idea of early elections, any dialogue with it would be futile," Abbas said.
Earlier, Hamas officials rejected the 2005 border agreement that excluded them from border control.
"We will not return to the old border agreement. We do not accept an Israeli role in running the border and no-one will control the crossing unless Hamas is part of arrangements to secure and run it," Hamas official Ahmed Yusif told the Pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat daily.
The militant group has urged Egypt to keep its border open.
" Egypt should keep the Rafah border crossing open as it is our opening to the world," said Mahmoud al-Zahar, who heads the Hamas delegation in the Cairo talks.
Speaking to reporters on his arrival in Egypt via the Rafah border crossing, al-Zahar said the historic border should not be used to blockade the Palestinian people.
Egypt has been reluctant to speak to Hamas since it took over control of the Gaza Strip.
Cairo looks with scepticism at Hamas, which is perceived as the sister organization of Egypt's outlawed, yet popular, Muslim Brotherhood. A radical Islamic group in control of neighbouring Gaza is a cause for concern in Cairo.
Cairo wants to restore arrangements on the border to their state before Hamas took control of Gaza, according to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit.
The pre-June border was under the control of the Palestinian Authority and traffic was overseen by European monitors.
Meanwhile Israel's Highest Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that the country's decision to limit supplies to the Gaza Strip is legal, rejecting a petition by human rights groups demanding an end to the fuel cut.
Although it must guarantee that essential, humanitarian needs are met, Israel has no legal obligation to ensure the welfare of Gaza's residents or to allow unlimited supplies of goods into the Strip, the court said in its ruling.
The state must avoid deliberate harm to civilians in the Gaza Strip but the amounts of fuel and electricity currently being supplied by Israel are enough to meet Gazans' essential humanitarian needs, the court said.