Saudi Arabia Mediates Reconciliation between Egypt, Qatar and Turkey

Saudi Arabia endeavors to achieve political reconciliation between Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, stated Ahmed Youssef -a leading figure in the Hamas Islamist movement- speaking to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency on Sunday.

He said  that such efforts will “definitely improve relations between Hamas and Cairo.”

Youssef added that Saudi Arabia will also seek to improve Hamas-Egypt relations after the end of the ongoing war in Yemen in which Riyadh is leading an Arab military coalition against Houthi militants.

He mentioned that Egypt’s intelligence officials assured Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk of the willingness of Cairo to open a new chapter in relations.

“Qataris and Turks have spoken to Saudi King Salman over mediation in the issue of opening the Rafah crossing. We are waiting for Saudi Arabia to finalise its preoccupations in Yemen to start acting on the Palestinian issue,” said Youssef.

Egyptian relations with Turkey, Qatar and Hamas have severely deteriorated since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Turkey and Qatar are regional allies of the Muslim Brotherhood – of which Morsi is a leading member – while Hamas represents a politico-ideological offshoot of the Islamist movement.

Last February, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters ruled Hamas a terrorist organisation, a month after the group’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, was also designated a terror group by the same court.

However, one month later, the Egyptian government appealed against the court ruling.

Egypt’s cabinet declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group in December 2013, and the authorities have since charged many Brotherhood members with offences including support for terrorism.

‘Unofficial talks’ with Israel

Youssef, moreover, revealed European-brokered “unofficial talks” between Hamas and Israel, denying direct connections between Tel Aviv and the Islamist movement.

He said Hamas is waiting for the formation of the next Israeli coalition government in order for “things to be taken more seriously.”

“European diplomats or civil society activists continuously come to Gaza to express Israeli views and go back to report what Hamas members told them. But all of these talks are unofficial,” mentioned the Hamas official.

Youssef said that one of the issues discussed lately during such talks involved finding a solution to the Israeli siege on Gaza via a sea lane.

Youssef, an ex-advisor of Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniya, spoke about foreign mediatory efforts over the Israeli soldiers taken as hostages by Hamas, arguing that the latter has “several important cards” on the issue.

“We told all mediators that there will be no new deals before Israel becomes committed to the terms of the Cairo deal about releasing the Palestinians who were re-arrested after the kidnapping of three settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron last year,” said Youssef.

He said that such matters will also be examined after the finalisation of Israel’s new government.

He also mentioned the expected visit by former US president Jimmy Carter to Gaza on Thursday to discuss the problem of Palestinian reconciliation with Hamas officials.

Youssef said Carter will meet Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniya, a number of Palestinian factions in the coastal enclave and minister in the Fatah-Hamas unity government.

Youssef said Carter will be accompanied by a delegation of the Elders – an independent group of global leaders – of which he is a member.

In his talks with Palestinian officials, Youssef said, Carter will tackle the issues of activating the role of the unity government, the next Palestinian elections and the ongoing truce with Israel.

“The man presented suggestions on Palestinian reconciliation in the past as part of his interest in playing a role in the matter,” asserted Youssef.

Youssef emphasised that Egypt is playing no role in this in the meantime.

Egypt sponsored indirect talks last August between the Israeli government and Palestinian factions that halted a 50-day Israeli offensive on Gaza.

The offensive led to the death of 2,140 Palestinians, with more than 12,000 injured. Seventy-three people, mostly soldiers, died on the Israeli side.

Source: Ahram Online

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