Monday, August 25, 2008

Egyptian Kinship with Fatah Hampers Mediation

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, Aug 25 (IPS) - Following renewed fighting between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, Egypt has stepped up calls for dialogue and reconciliation. But critics say Cairo's partiality to Fatah -- which is backed, like the Egyptian regime itself, by the U.S. -- prevents it from mediating fairly in the crisis.

"The Egyptian government is very sympathetic to Fatah," Magdi Hussein, political analyst and secretary-general of Egypt's frozen Labour Party, told IPS. "For that reason, any new Egyptian attempt to mediate the dispute is doomed to failure."......

Commentators, meanwhile, point out that Egyptian mediation attempts will be sorely undermined by Cairo's relative closeness to Fatah. "Egypt openly supports Fatah," Gamal Zahran, political science professor at Suez Canal University and independent member of parliament, told IPS. "This is primarily due to the fact that Cairo doesn't want to see Hamas become a successful example of Islamic governance in the region."......

Critics point to the government's refusal to open Egypt's 14 km border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip as further proof of official bias against the resistance group.

Since its 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel has kept its borders with the enclave hermetically sealed. And for more than one year, the Egyptian government, citing the lack of a formal treaty regulating border protocol, has completed the strip's isolation by sealing its own border with the territory.

Often described by the western media as an "embargo", the de facto siege -- which enjoys the support of the both the U.S. and the EU -- has destroyed the Gaza Strip's economy and deprived many of its roughly 1.5 million residents of food and medicine.

"The Egyptian government is taking part in the siege and forbidding the entry of material aid into the starving territory," Hamdi Hassan, prominent MP for the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement told IPS. Hassan went on to question how Egypt could pose as a neutral mediator in the dispute between Fatah and Hamas while at the same time being "utterly beholden to U.S. and Zionist dictates."

Hamas has repeatedly offered to jointly reopen the Egypt-Gaza Rafah border crossing, but Cairo has consistently refused, saying it would deal only with "official and legitimate" authorities of the PA. Although the two-month-old ceasefire between Israel and Hamas calls for the gradual reopening of the Gaza Strip's borders, this stipulation has yet to be implemented......."

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