Last updated: 30 May, 2011

Abbas in Egypt for talks with military leader

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was in Egypt on Monday for talks with the country’s de facto head of state on efforts to seek UN recognition for a Palestinian state, a military source said.

Abbas briefed Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi — who heads the military council in power since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February — on his recent trip to Doha.

At a meeting of an Arab monitoring committee chaired by Qatar, the Arab League said in a statement it “supports the appeal to the UN asking that Palestine, within the 1967 borders, becomes a full-fledged state” of the international organisation.

The two also discussed an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation deal that put an end to the bitter division between Abbas’s Fatah movement and the Islamist Hamas group and paves the way for a new government and elections within a year.

During the talks, the Palestinian president thanked Tantawi for opening the Rafah crossing, the only border with Gaza that bypasses Israel, in a bid to ease the blockade on the strip.

The border had remained largely shut since June 2006 when Israel imposed a tight blockade on Gaza after Palestinian militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

The blockade was tightened a year later when the Islamist movement Hamas seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

The decision to permanently reopen the Rafah crossing came more than three months after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned under pressure following 18 days of massive street protests against his rule.