Last updated: 28 April, 2012

Abbas greeted in Tunisia with military honours

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday discussed Palestinian reconciliation with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki at the start of an official visit.

The Palestinian leader was greeted with military honours at the airport by President Marzouki and president of the National Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar.

“We have discussed Palestinian reconciliation and the role that Tunisia can play in order to end the (Palestinian) division,” Abbas told reporters.

Abbas’s Palestinian Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, last year agreed to reconcile, signing in Doha a deal calling for the quick formation of a consensus government, which would pave the way for presidential and legislative polls by around May.

But the process has hit repeated snags, with the formation of the interim government proving thorny.

Abbas was also due to hold talks with Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali whose moderate Islamist party Ennahda won elections in October after the ouster last year of long-serving Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The visit is the third by Abbas to Tunisia since the fall of Ben Ali.

He will commemorate the Tunisians and Palestinians killed during Israel’s 1985 air raid on the PLO headquarters. Its leader Yasser Arafat found asylum in Tunisia from 1982 to 1994 after a forced departure from Lebanon.

After leaving Tunisia, Abbas, who is accompanied by diplomatic advisor Majdi al-Khaldi, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina and foreign affairs minister Riyad al-Malki, will travel to Libya to meet the country’s new leaders.