Musa Abu Marzuk, the deputy of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, said Saturday that progress was being made in Egypts mediation attempts regarding kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit until Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to the country.
“Olmert took a few steps back in the visit,” Abu Marzuk said. He said that an envoy on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was holding talks with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in preparation for Abbas’ visit to Damascus next week.
Abbas would meet with Hamas senior officials, as well as Syrian officials, as part of the effort to establish a Palestinian unity government.
“I hope the meetings in Damascus will be useful and lead to a solution of the problems which caused past negotiations to fail,” Abu Marzuk said. In recent days, the issue of the prisoners was the main focus of conflict between Hamas and Fatah.
Fatah members claimed that Hamas brings up the issue of Gilad Shalit every time it senses political distress. Hamas members claimed that Fatah officials, including Mohammad Dahlan, were at fault for hindering the deal.
Official sources inside both Hamas and Fatah claimed that in the past two weeks there had been significant progress in the confidential talks held between Mashaal and Abbas’ envoy. According to Abu Marzuk, Egypt and Syria would play a key role in renewing the negotiations.
Abu Marzuk also commented on Abbas’ threat to dismantle the government and call early elections. “It is
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh blamed Israel and the United States of attempting to divide the Palestinian people and thereby thwart the establishment of a unity government in the PA.
The Associated Press contributed to this article