Abbas cites Egypt’s absence in Paris for not attending Gaza talks
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas - AP

CAIRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not attend recent Paris ceasefire talks on Gaza because they were not initiated by Egypt, he told Saudi newspaper Okaz Monday.

“We are committed to the Egyptian initiative, and we are ready to participate in anything that comes from Egypt’s side on the basis of this initiative.” Abbas said. “We will not accept any initiative from other parties, especially since such initiatives would hinder Palestinian action.”

Hamas rejected Egypt’s proposal of a long-term truce on July 16; it was all but approved by Israel. Hamas said the initiative did not tackle the group’s main objectives: Ending the eight-year blockade on Gaza and releasing Palestinian captives.

Israel detained Hamas-affiliated people in the West Bank during its search for three abducted teen settlers, although the prisoners had been released as per a 2011 agreement to free then-captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Egyptian initiative is almost identical to the one approved by all parties in 2012 while Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was still in power.

As Egypt did not call for the Saturday international meeting in Paris and did not partake in it, it was “not feasible to go,” Abbas told Okaz while in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.

“We are facing a very serious problem; this problem is primarily known for the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want [Palestinian] national unity or a government of national reconciliation and does not want any political solution,” Abbas said. “These are the priorities and headlines that Netanyahu sets for himself, and they are the real cover for the aggression unfolding in Gaza Strip.”

The Palestinian president said there have been discussions on Palestinian and Israeli delegations meeting in Cairo for talks, but none of these proposals have been confirmed.

“For its part, the U.S. tried to bring views closer together, but its efforts have been unsuccessful. One of its initiatives was the meeting that was held in Cairo with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and [Arab League head] Nabil al-Arabi,” Abbas told Okaz.

“We were invited to attend that meeting, but we did not go because the invitation was supposed to come from Egypt and not from any other party. Therefore, we refrained from attending.”

Since the beginning of the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza in early July, thousands of homes have been reduced to rubble, thousands of Palestinians have been displaced in the 360 square kilometer enclave and at least 1,049 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians.

Earlier Monday, at the beginning of major Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, eight children and two adults were killed in a huge explosion in a public park in northern Gaza.

While Israel claimed the incident was a misfire by a Hamas rocket, locals said it was an Israeli airstrike, Reuters reported.

Forty-three Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also been killed since the Israeli offensive began July 8.

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