Abbas Complains to Arab Leaders About Visits to Gaza

CAIRO (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hit out at leaders who make official visits to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, telling an Islamic summit on Wednesday such trips deepened what he termed the schism among Palestinians.

The remarks follow recent visits to Gaza by the Emir of Qatar and the prime minister of Malaysia. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, a major sponsor of Hamas, said this week he too would like to visit the territory.

Addressing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Cairo, Abbas drew a distinction between welcome humanitarian aid for Gaza and “political visits that have an official character, as if there is an independent entity in the Gaza Strip.” Abbas claims to be the sole official representative of the Palestinians.

During the conference, Abbas met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines. It was the second meeting between the two in the past year.

Abbas later said that he thanked Ahmadinejad for Iran’s vote in favor of the U.N. upgrading the Palestinians’ status to non-member observer state.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was given red-carpet treatment when he went to Gaza in October, as the first head of state to visit since 1999.

The Ramallah-based administration denounced Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Jan. 22 trip there. The president of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, had also been due to visit Gaza last month, but cancelled at the request of Abbas.

Abbas added that Palestinian factions would meet in Cairo during the weekend to agree to procedures for holding new elections. The Islamic summit was due to hold what it described as a special session on Palestine on Wednesday.