The Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, may not have been invited to attend the Annapolis peace conference, but the group’s presence there will be felt precisely because of its absence. The low expectations on the outcome of the conference, and its failure, may serve as a platform for renewed negotiations between Fatah and Hamas. Once the summit is over, it will be impossible to continue ignoring Hamas. Hamas and Fatah are still clashing on the ground, but Egypt is preparing for a meeting of representatives of the two Palestinian factions, with Saudi Arabia’s blessing.
Ten days ago, Haniyeh announced that mediation efforts were being carried out by an Arab country he did not specify. That same day, Nabil Amr, political adviser to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, denied the existence of such talks. But behind the scenes, the Yemeni foreign minister won the support of Saudi Arabia and Egypt to try to mediate between the two groups. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak instructed Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, to ask Fatah and Hamas to present a list of demands so that an agreed framework for negotiations could be prepared. [complete article]