Mon, 08 Feb 2021 - 10:38 GMT
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the Arab League on Feb. 8, 2021 - Press photo
CAIRO – 8 February 2021: Egypt has a long history of supporting Palestinians and their aspirations for an independent state, not only for the obvious reasons of sharing a border with them, having a central role in the region, or having a peace treaty with Israel.
These reasons naturally make Egypt a perfect mediator either amongst Palestinians factions or between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But other countries in the regions have some of these elements, too. Rather, it is Egypt’s perseverance and unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause through decades and decades that make any Palestinian reconciliation possible only by Egyptian mediation.
The year 2020 is the year of peace agreements between Israel and a group of Arab countries, which Egypt has blessed as a country that promotes peace. Amid all the peace announcements and Egypt’s congratulations, it called for Palestinian talks all over again, because for Egypt, peace does not mean forgetting the rights of the Palestinians. And these rights start with a unified leadership.
Below is a timeline of Egypt’s efforts in 2020 to bring Palestinians together up until the major roundtable of 14 Palestinian factions in Cairo on Feb. 8, as well as an emergency meeting by the foreign ministers of the Arab League.
September 2020: On Sept. 28, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received the secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub, and member of the committee Rouhy Fattouh in Cairo.
Shoukry highlighted “the continuation of Egyptian efforts to provide all forms of support to the leadership of the brotherly Palestinian people during these difficult circumstances.”
For their part, the Palestinian officials emphasized “the centrality of the Egyptian role in mending the Palestinian rift and achieving the hoped reconciliation,” expressing their appreciation of Egypt’s support for Palestinian rights.
November 2020: On Nov. 15, a Fatah delegation and another from Hamas visited Cairo to discuss reconciliation as a prelude to elections, the last of which was in 2006 where Hamas won, and forcibly controlled Gaza Strip after Fatah refused to accept the result.
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said the same day that the visit comes in the framework of talk with Fatah to accomplish national partnership. He added that the movement is adamant to culminate the efforts in success to build a joint strategy in the face of challenges facing the Palestinian cause.
On Nov. 16, several newspapers reported that an initial agreement has been reached between Palestinian factions in Cairo. Al Arabiya news website quoted sources as saying that Egypt demanded that Palestinian cease firing any rockets at Israel, and that the latter stop airstrikes on Gaza.
While Hamas requested that Rafah border crossing be reopened, Egypt demanded that no “provocations” happen at the crossing, warning about violations of rules at the border.
Egypt also requested that Hamas stop “random arrests” in Gaza and to release those detained on partisan grounds to alleviate the tension in the strip, according to Al Arabiya.
December 2020: On Dec. 15, Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr met with the Egyptian ambassador in Palestine Tarek Tayel to discuss the reconciliation. He told the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa) that Egypt’s role in the talks is crucial.
January 2021: On Jan. 2, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was handed a handwritten letter from Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh. Welcoming the message, Abbas reiterated his and Haniyeh’s determination to end the division and build a partnership through legislative and presidential elections, as well as a national council.
Abbas also thanked Egypt for sponsoring the reconciliation.
February 2021: On Feb. 8, 14 Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, arrived in Cairo to talk and agree on a series of elections in 2021 for the first time in 15 years. They thanked Egypt at the end of their round of talks, but Egypt also heads the Arab League at this time and called for a convention at the level of foreign minister on the same day.
The Arab foreign ministers adopted a 12-item decision regarding the Palestinian cause during the emergency meeting by Egypt and Jordan in Cairo.
The resolution stipulates that “Arab countries support the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, a top of which are self-determination, the right of return, and the establishment of an independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state, on the border of the 4th of June 1967 and East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In his speech at the meeting upon request from Egypt and Jordan , Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s supporting role in achieving the inter-Palestine reconciliation and in reviving negotiations between the Palestinians and Israeli, saying “The Palestinian cause is still and will remain our central issue … The stability in the region will not be achieved without a permanent and comprehensive peace based on a just settlement that fulfills the aspirations and hopes of the Palestinian people.”
“Some [countries] thought that the Arab world, amid the current circumstances, had become distracted from the cause. They thought that the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, has not become on the agenda of the Arab countries’ priorities. But this belief is wrong. The Palestinian issue was and will remain in the heart of the Arab conscience, no matter how stagnant and disrupted the negotiation process is and despite the unilateral Israeli practices and settlement projects in the West Bank.”