salaries of employees. Also to mediate for release of Palestine assets with Israel.
Google News 10/10/2006
Qatar Becomes Mediator in Palestinian Dispute
JERUSALEM, Oct. 9 — Qatar, which has not traditionally played a major role in Palestinian affairs, on Monday tried to revive stalled negotiations on a national unity government between the two feuding Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.
In Gaza City on Monday night, Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, shuttled between the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, of Hamas.
The Qatari diplomat was seeking to bring the Palestinian leaders back into face-to-face negotiations that fell apart after a tentative agreement had been reached last month to form a united Palestinian government.
Until last week, Egypt was the main Arab mediator in the increasingly bitter rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. The feud erupted into deadly street battles in Gaza on Oct. 1 and 2.
At about the same time, Qatar’s role began to emerge when Mr. Abbas and the exiled Hamas political leader, Khaled Meshal, both turned up in the tiny Gulf state. While there was no indication that the two Palestinians met, both reportedly held talks with Qatari officials, including the foreign minister, who presented a six-point plan for the Palestinian unity government.
Last week’s talks did not appear to make progress. When Mr. Abbas returned to his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, he said that negotiations with Hamas had collapsed and that he was prepared to use his presidential powers, which give him the authority to dismiss the government.
But Mr. Abbas traveled to Gaza, the Hamas stronghold, and met for 90 minutes on Monday night with Sheik Hamad. Immediately afterward, he met Mr. Haniya nearby.
“Nothing has failed,” Mr. Abbas said in brief comments to reporters following his meeting. “God willing, it will all be resolved.”
Since assuming power in the spring, the Hamas government has barely functioned. Western countries cut off assistance, Israel has arrested dozens of Hamas legislators and cabinet ministers, and unpaid Palestinian government workers have gone on strike.
A unity government would seek a restoration of Western aid and could help end, or at least reduce, the Palestinian infighting. But the Palestinian factions have been unable to agree on a number of fundamental issues, including a formal recognition of Israel, which Fatah accepts and Hamas rejects.
Qatar’s plan, as reported in the Palestinian news media, calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which could be viewed as an implicit recognition of Israel.
It also calls for a prime minister who is not directly connected to either Hamas or Fatah. Hamas has said it will not be pushed out of positions it holds based on its victories in the January elections.
While Qatar has not been a major player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has maintained contacts with both sides and has sought a more prominent role, said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza City.
Qatar established low-level ties with Israel, and it also allowed Hamas leaders to live within its borders for a time when Jordan forced them to leave several years ago, Mr. Abusada noted.
“Qatar has long wanted to play this role as mediator,” he said.
Meanwhile, in violence Monday, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, Mahmoud Nasser, was killed and four more Palestinians were wounded by an Israeli artillery strike in northern Gaza, Palestinian medical workers and the Israeli military said.
The military said it launched the artillery strike at a Palestinian who was retrieving a rocket launcher that had been used Saturday to fire a rocket from northern Gaza into southern Israel. The militants immediately fled when they fired the rocket on Saturday, leaving the launcher behind, as is often the case.
Palestinian medical workers said the youth had apparently been working in a farming field and approached the launcher. Mahmoud’s father, Jamal Nasser, 50, was one of those wounded, the Palestinians said.
Near the West Bank city of Nablus, an Israeli soldier shot dead a Palestinian man who pulled a knife at a military checkpoint and tried to stab another soldier, the military said.