Abbas says no peace agreement before all prisoners in Israel are released 26Mar11 March 27, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  26 March 2011

There will be no peace agreement before all Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s custody are released, President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday.

During a reception in Ramallah for the coordinator of the popular committee against the wall and settlements in Bil’in, Abdullah Abu Rahma, recently freed from Israeli jail, Abbas asserted the Palestinian Authority would not spare any effort to release all Palestinian prisoners.

The official PA news agency Wafa quoted Abbas saying he gives special attention to the prisoners’ cause as “a pivotal issue” which tops priorities of the PA leadership. The president also expressed appreciation of the great role the popular committees play in resisting the wall and settlement expansion through non-violent protests.

Abu Rahma told Abbas that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails supported Abbas’ initiative to end rivalry and reach unity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“National reconciliation is necessary to counter the dire conditions the Palestinian cause is facing,” Abu Rahma said on behalf of prisoners. He expressed his support for Abbas’ policies to recruit international support for popular resistance and for recognition of statehood on the 1967 border with Jerusalem as its capital.

Former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik and other Hamas leaders and lawmakers from the West Bank have received invitations to meet with Abbas, sources close to Hamas told Ma’an.

Ma’an learned on Friday the meeting could take place very soon, possibly by Saturday afternoon, in order to take advantage of Abbas’ initiative to visit Gaza and finalize a reconciliation agreement.

A high-level official in the PLO expressed doubts about Hamas’ willingness to respond positively to Abbas’ initiative. He highlighted that Hamas’ leadership in Gaza have been trying to make up excuses to avoid finalizing a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority and its dominant party Fatah.

“I don’t believe it will be that easy because Hamas leaders in Gaza know that ending the state of disagreement will harm their interests and thus they are not interested in ending reconciliation but rather in reaching a ceasefire with Israel,” the official said.

He went on to say that “Hamas is not compelled to respond positively to any such initiatives currently because they count on the Muslim Brotherhood to take a leading role in Egypt and other Arab countries in the aftermath of the popular uprisings in these countries.”

For his part, the second deputy PLC speaker Hasan Khreisha confirmed that Abbas was scheduled to meet former PLC speaker Dweik on Sunday. He said during a talk show broadcast on Palestine TV that it is not Dweik who represents Hamas in the West Bank, but the movement’s official spokespersons.

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