Abbas authorizes Egypt to talk with Hamas: aide

Other News Materials 5 April 2008 16:36 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah movement authorized Egypt to hold talks with rival Palestinian faction Hamas on several issues, an aide to Abbas said on Saturday.

The issues include reinforcing a ceasefire between armed Palestinian groups in the Hamas-ruled Gaza and Israel, according to Nabil Shaath, Abbas' representative in Egypt.

Shaath added that opening the borders between Egypt and Gaza, brokering a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel and resuming talks between Hamas and Fatah were also among the topics.

According to Shaath, "Fatah monitors and supports these talks which were also discussed between Abbas and Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi leaders."

Hamas seized control of Gaza Strip by force in June and routed the security forces of Abbas. Since then, Israel imposed a tight closure on the coastal territory which Hamas has ruled, ignoring decisions by Abbas.

Israel also increased military attacks against the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the area amid Egyptian mediation efforts aim at securing a state of calmness.

Earlier Saturday, a Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed that Abbas would meet Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert on Monday.

Peace talks, the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip were the key issues that the two leaders were scheduled to discuss, Erekat said.

The settlement activities violate "Israel's commitments under the first phase" of the US-backed Road Map peace plan which calls for the immediate suspension of settlement expansion, Erekat added.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) revived the negotiations at a US-hosted conference in November.

The upcoming meeting will be the first since Abbas suspended his biweekly meetings with Olmert in early March in protest at an Israeli army operation in the Gaza Strip.

Also Saturday, twelve Palestinian militants were reported to have escaped overnight from a prison in the West Bank town of Nablus.

The prisoners are believed to be members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the armed wing of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.