KHARTOUM (AFP) – Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mishaal hailed the sweeping political changes in Egypt, which he said had given the Palestinian people their lives back, in a speech in Khartoum on Sunday.
“Today we are witnessing Cairo returning to its natural state, after it disappeared from that state for a long time,” the Palestinian Islamist leader said in a speech broadcast live on Sudanese state television.
“The people in Egypt and Tunisia have given us back our lives,” he added.
Mishaal was speaking at the opening of the eighth Al Quds [Jerusalem] International Foundation conference, being held in the Sudanese capital this year and funded by Iran.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979, and president Hosni Mubarak, who came to power two years later after his predecessor was assassinated by Islamists, was overthrown last month after weeks of nationwide protests.
The toppling of Mubarak was celebrated across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which neighbour Egypt had blockaded since 2007 when the Islamists seized power and ousted the secular Fateh movement of President Mahmoud Abbas whose writ is now limited to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hamas, which won parliamentary elections a year earlier, has refused to amend its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel.
On Sunday, Mishaal called for reconciliation between Hamas and Fateh based on “jihad”, or struggle, against Israel.
“The first step [to liberating Jerusalem from Israeli occupation] is refusal to negotiate with Israel… and to establish a new, reconciled Palestinian position based on jihad,” he said.
Under Mubarak, Egypt played an active part in trying to revive moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and also sought vainly to reconcile the feuding Palestinian factions.
The Palestinian Authority abandoned direct peace talks with Israel last autumn over an intractable dispute about persistent Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
The status of Jerusalem was another key sticking point in the negotiations, with the Palestinians wanting the mostly Arab part of the city now annexed by Israel as the capital of their future state.
Sudan’s President Omar Bashir reiterated his country’s support for the Palestinian people in their “battle” for Jerusalem.
“What is going in the region is a prelude to the battle for Jerusalem. And we are committed to supporting the [Palestinian] people of Jerusalem in their jihad,” he told the conference in Khartoum, adding that Egypt’s 1979 peace accord with Israel had been a blow to the Arabs.
Egypt’s newly ruling military has vowed to abide by the agreement.