Abbas, US envoy push Mideast peace in Paris talks
After meeting Sarkozy, Palestinian president tells reporters situation in Gaza 'remains fragile' and calls for 'solution with Hamas in framework of national unity government'; Mitchell, French FM Kouchner discuss common desire to see truce hold for the long term
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Monday that a ceasefire in Gaza remains fragile and he backed Egypt-led efforts to bring calm amid continuing scattered violence.
Abbas met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of his effort to drum up diplomatic support for a unity government of Palestinian factions and to push for a role in rebuilding Gaza, controlled by rival Hamas.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Abbas called for a "solution with Hamas in the framework of a government of national unity" but rejected the militant group's call for a new Palestinian political structure.
Abbas said the situation in Gaza "remains fragile", with "military operations" and "Israeli bombardments" continuing that have strained the informal ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants.
"We hope that all this is going to stop and that the efforts provided by Egypt are going to succeed in bringing back calm and allowing for a Palestinian reconciliation," he said.
The visit to Paris to meet with Sarkozy, who helped broker the Gaza ceasefire, came at the start of a diplomatic push by Abbas around Europe aimed at finding sturdier solutions for Gaza.
Abbas is expected to travel to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday for a meeting of several Arab foreign ministers who are expected to express their support for the Palestinian president amid Hamas' call to set up a new political structure to replace the PLO. The leaders are also expected to back the Egyptian ceasefire initiative and call for the resumption of talks between the rival Palestinian factions.
The meeting is apparently indicative of the difficulties Egypt is facing in its efforts to implement the truce in Gaza and jumpstart the negotiations between Hamas and Fatah.
Earlier, Sarkozy met Qatar's prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, whose Persian Gulf country has emerged as a regional mediator since helping to resolve a political crisis in Lebanon last year.
Al-Thani insisted Hamas should not be sidelined from peace efforts, and said Arab nations should not play favorites in pushing for a solution.
"We must work for a government of national unity between the Palestinians," al-Thani told reporters. "Arab countries cannot support this or the other Palestinian party against another."
"There should not be efforts to delete or distance one of the Palestinian parties present on the ground," he said, referring to Hamas.
He also urged the international community to pressure Israel to permanently stop its bombardments.
'France open to idea of unity government'
Earlier Monday, President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, met with Sarkozy's chief of staff before sitting down with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for lunch. Mitchell met with Abbas and other Palestinian officials last week.
During their meeting, Kouchner and Mitchell discussed their common desire to see that the ceasefire in Gaza holds for the long term, said a French diplomatic official.
Kouchner stressed the need for inter-Palestinian dialogue and for the border crossings into Gaza to be reopened, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Abbas' aides have said he is on a European tour, with stops at EU parliament in Strasbourg, as well as is Britain, Italy, Turkey and Poland, in hopes of gaining support for a Palestinian unity government that would likely have to involve Hamas but would also include independents as Cabinet ministers.
The Palestinian leader also wants international backing for his demands that he be given a role in Gaza reconstruction, and that his troops be deployed at the Gaza border crossings with Israel and Egypt.
Hamas, for now, is cool to both ideas. The militant group on Monday sent a delegation to Egypt in hopes of wrapping up a long-term ceasefire.
In Cairo on Sunday, Abbas told reporters he would not hold reconciliation talks with Hamas as long as it rejects his authority. The two sides have been divided since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007. Abbas' Fatah rules the West Bank.
Scattered violence has resumed in recent days after Israel ended a three-week offensive meant to halt rocket attacks on Israel and end weapons smuggling into Gaza. A missile from an Israeli aircraft struck a car traveling in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday, killing a Palestinian militant.
Kouchner last week suggested France was open to the idea of a unity government if Hamas softens its stance.