Cyprus Mail
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Russia invites Palestinian factions to meet on Feb 26

israeli army operates in northern gaza amid the ongoing ground operation against palestinian islamist group hamas
Israeli soldiers in what Israel's military says is a Hamas constructed tunnel

By John Irish

Russia has invited Palestinian factions to meet in Moscow on Feb. 26, the Palestinian Authority prime minister said on Sunday, adding that the PA was ready to engage with Hamas.

“Russia has invited all Palestinian factions who will be meeting on the 26 of this month in Moscow. We will see if Hamas is ready to come to the ground with us” Mohammad Shtayyeh told the Munich Security Conference.

“We are ready to engage. If Hamas is not then that’s a different story. We need Palestinian unity,” he said, adding that to be part of that unity Hamas needed to meet certain prerequisites.

Set up as part of the 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that raised hopes of Palestinian statehood, the PA has seen its legitimacy steadily undermined by Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Many Palestinians now regard it as corrupt, undemocratic and out of touch.

The militant Islamist group Hamas has ruled in the Gaza Strip for 17 years after ousting the PA loyalist security services from the enclave. Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attacks on Israel triggered Israel’s war against the group in Gaza.

Western and some Arab states have made it clear that they want to see a revitalized Palestinian Authority – which President Mahmoud Abbas has run since 2005 – take charge in Gaza once the conflict is over, unifying its administration with the West Bank.

“Palestine is ready. We have the institutions, capabilities, but our serious problem is we are under occupation,” Shtayyeh said. “We are under Israeli occupation and we need it to end.”

When asked whether bringing Hamas into the broader PLO platform would alienate international partners, he said Hamas was an integral part of the Palestinian political arena.

“In order for Hamas to be a member of the PLO there has to be prerequisites that Hamas has to accept – the political platform of the PLO, an understanding on the issue of resistance and we are calling for popular resistance and nothing else,” he said.

Hamas has always welcomed Russian reconciliation efforts. Leaders of the Palestinian Islamist factions have repeatedly visited Moscow, which maintains good relations with Hamas.

Hamas and the PA have failed to end their power disputes since 2007. Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group demand to join the PLO but say it should be reformed as the two factions reject recognizing Israel or abiding by the PLO commitment towards the signed peace accords.

Shtayyeh said there were currently no talks with Hamas.

“They need to come to our political agenda. Our ground is very clear. Two states on the borders of 1967, through peaceful means,” he said. “The Palestinians need to be under one umbrella.”

“We need a reformed PA because right now Hamas has too much legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinians,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said.

“We need to offer them a new generation of young Palestinian leaders who will be at the table to create this state.”

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