June 19, 2010 / 2:30 PM / in 7 years

Egypt says will not alter Palestinian unity pact

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will not amend a pact written to reconcile rival Palestinian movements and the Islamist Hamas should join Fatah in signing it, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Saturday.

Hamas has objected to the proposal for a Palestinian national unity government, fearing its military wings used to seize control of Gaza in 2007 would be broken up and demanding guarantees of international recognition.

Forging Palestinian unity is regarded as crucial to reviving any prospect for a Palestinian state based on peace with Israel. Fatah, the mainstream movement until a 2006 election victory by Hamas, backs negotiated peace but the Islamists reject it.

Hamas members were quoted by independent Palestinian news agency Maan Friday as saying Egypt had accepted Hamas’s proposal for amendments to the pact that, along with the Egyptian document, would “become points of reference.”

Aboul Gheit responded: ”Such reports on the reconciliation process are inaccurate and do not represent Egypt’s position which stands as it has always been: the existing document must be signed by Hamas as it has been signed by Fatah.

“Egypt has no inclination nor is it ready to allow for any amendments to this document either in the form of direct changes made to it or even as an appendix,” Aboul Gheit told reporters.

PACT DETAILS

The pact also calls for restoring the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, the Fatah-led body created under 1990s interim peace deals, and planning for legislative and presidential elections in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Egypt, the main mediator in the internal Palestinian feud, drafted the pact in October 2009 after staging talks for six months between Fatah, Hamas and smaller Palestinian factions.

Aboul Gheit was speaking after a meeting between President Hosni Mubarak and U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, who is mediating indirect talks between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority

The PA holds sway only in self-rule areas of the West Bank.

“The Egyptian document has not been changed and still stands,” Aboul Gheit said. “We invite our brothers in Hamas to sign the pact. As for their reservations, those can be directly discussed between Hamas and Fatah.”

Fatah signed the pact in October 2009 while Hamas refrained, demanding guarantees that it would be recognized internationally should it win in a future election and that no embargo would be imposed on it.

After Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, Israel tightened its blockade of the impoverished coastal strip.

Hamas and other factions also demand clarification over a clause in the pact banning the creation of military formations outside the authority of the new unity government, saying this clause could be used to dismantle their military wings in Gaza.

Any reduction in military ranks for Hamas and smaller factions such as Islamic Jihad in Gaza would undermine their political clout in dealings with Abbas’s Fatah.

Mitchell called on all parties to “avoid any unnecessary confrontations.”

Hamas refuses to recognise agreements Fatah signed with Israel and has been locked in a power struggle with the formerly dominant Fatah faction since it won an election four years ago.

Reporting by Marwa Awad; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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