Here is a screenshot photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walking into the post-inaugural reception of Egypt’s newly-installed President AbdelFattah Sisi, in Cairo today — the screenshot was Tweeted here:
Hany Rasmy @hany2m — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, arrives at Ittihadiya palace – pic.twitter.com/Firhbp1a63
Samer Al-Atrush @SameralAtrush · Abbas arrives at Ittihadiya with Erekat in tow [n.b. – Erekat is wearing blue shirt, walking behind security men who are behind Abbas…]
Alex Ortiz @azortiz — #Egypt’s presidential palace is crowded with well-wishing Gulf monarchs. Tahrir seems to have a couple hundred #Sisi supporters celebrating.
Sisi’s inauguration comes just a week after Abbas’ ceremony to swear in the new Palestinian government — and it seems that having the new government [later dubbed a government of “national conciliation”] in place by the time of Sisi’s inauguration was a significant consideration in pushing it through. That it’s also in Hamas’ higher interest — to repair damaged relations with Egypt’s govenment and to reopen Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai — explains why Hamas went along with Abbas’ big push, despite differences and reservations on several points of the arrangements.
Big things are expected to come out of discussions between Abbas and Sisi [and probably some of the Gulf VIPs] during these inauguration festivities in Cairo.– even though Abbas is expected at the Vatican this evening for a joint prayer for peace in the Middle East with Israel’s State President Shimon Peres, at the suggestion and invitation of Pope Francis.
In preparation for these discussions, it is being reported by Al-Quds newspaper in Jerusalem that President Abbas yesterday [Saturday] received Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and the Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil elAraby, and held discussion about the region but focussed particularly on the new Palestinian government.
These may have been two separate meetings, because Egypt’s The Daily News is reporting on Abbas’ meeting with Fahmy here…
Egypt’s Daily News is reporting today that:
“According to a statement released by the Egyptian foreign ministry, the pair discussed the current peace process and ‘the need for commitment of the Israeli side’, adding that ‘the rules of international law and international legitimacy resolutions reject the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories’. Fahmy reiterated Egypt’s desire for a two state solution with Palestinian borders along the 1967 boundaries with a capital in East Jerusalem. ‘Egypt will spare no effort to help our Palestinian brothers to get their legitimate rights and establish their independent state’, the statement read. Fahmy then assured Abbas of Egyptian support for the revival of the peace process and ‘in particular, the need to stop settlement activity’ on occupied Palestinian land.
Egypt has voiced its support for the joint Hamas and PLO unity government agreed upon in late April. In the text of the unity deal, which aims to ‘form a government of national consensus’, both Hamas and the PLO expressed ‘the value of and their appreciation for the Egyptian role in overseeing the reconciliation agreement’, adding that Cairo’s involvement ‘will continue’ … Egypt has also had its issues with Hamas recently, as the group has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organisation. Hamas has been accused by Egypt of taking part in the militant insurgency in North Sinai that intensified following Morsi’s ouster last year, which Hamas has denied”…
Another report here published last night by Ma’an news agency, based on a reporter’s conversation with an unnamed “top Egyptian official” [probably either Fahmy or alAraby, see above], indicates what’s at stake:
“According to the official, who spoke to Ma’an on condition of anonymity, Egyptian authorities have welcomed the commitment of Hamas toward reconciliation which, for Cairo, facilitates cooperation with Hamas. However, the official said Hamas must … not interfere in Egyptian matters. The Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi strongly backs the national unity government will not prevent permanently opening Rafah as long as it is directed by the ‘legal’ Palestinian authorities, the official said. A meeting in Egypt between Sisi and Abbas will consider ‘real promises’ for opening the crossing and organizing Egyptian-Palestinian cooperation now that reconciliation has succeeded, the official concluded…”
It seems clear from the circumstances surrounding this event that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in such a hurry to inaugurate his new government of “national consensensus” — which involved the immediate resignation of the Hamas government led by Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza — in order to prepare for immediate discussions after this inauguration, in order to reinforce the Palestinian reconciliation and to try to stabilize the precarious situation in the area…