CAIRO: Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erakat asked Egypt to continue its arbitration efforts between Palestinian factions in Gaza at a press conference in Cairo Saturday.
“We want to consolidate to protect the Palestinian people, Erakat said and as such Egypt should continue acting “to achieve calm in the Gaza Strip.
Erakat was in Cairo to meet Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
Erakat, a chief negotiator with Israel in the peace process, called “all Palestinian factions in Gaza to cooperate with Egypt, because it would be a “catastrophe in Gaza if Israeli forces launch a major offensive on it.
Egypt has long arbitrated between Palestinian factions but relations have been strained since Hamas blew up parts of the border wall in January to allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to enter the Egyptian side of Rafah and Al-Arish.
Recent news that Hamas is considering a further breach in the border has been met by consternation in Egypt.
The ministry released a statement quoting a “reliable source within the ministry who “expressed great astonishment and condemnation for the statements made by leaders [of the] Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad movements [suggesting] the possibility of resorting to another Palestinian human penetration [of] the Egyptian borders.
Erakat himself warned that it is “absolutely unacceptable for Palestinians to threaten Egyptian national security.
In anticipation of a possible breach, Egypt deployed troops to the border and is preventing supply trucks from entering the areas of Rafah and Al-Arish to stop any economic incentive for a new breach.
In related news, a member of the Israeli Knesset Yossi Belin claimed last week that the US is planning a follow up to the Annapolis peace conference in Sharm El-Sheikh next month.
According to the Palestine News Agency WAFA Belin said in a speech he gave in Geneva about the peace talks that the Sharm El-Sheikh summit would include US President George Bush, King Abdallah II of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak alongside Palestinian and Israeli officials.
Erakat called on Hamas to respect a Yemeni initiative aiming at reconciliation between them and Fatah. Officials from Hamas and Fatah had met in Sanaa last month but no agreement was reached.
Seven Palestinians were killed last Friday as a result of an Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip. Israeli tanks and helicopters entered Gaza and opened fire wounding a further 25 people including three children.