RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Former world leaders Jimmy Carter and Gro Harlem Brundtland met with President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday, concluding a three-day visit by the Elders aimed at promoting peace.Former US President Carter said that they discussed the direction of Palestinian leadership with Abbas, and that the Elders were particularly concerned with reconciliation efforts and the need for holding Palestinian elections.Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Brundtland offered their assitance toward that end, and expressed their wish that “forthcoming elections will bring peace and unity, and benefit all Palestinians.”Carter added: “We hope that some time we’ll see elections all over the Palestinian area and East Jerusalem and Gaza and also in the West Bank.” He said that elections would “be an important step for Palestinians.”Abbas acknowledged the importance of ending internal Palestinian division in order for the national consensus government to perform its duties, and also accepted the need to prepare for presidential and legislative elections.No election has been held in the occupied territories for nearly a decade. Abbas’s presidential mandate expired in 2009, but he has remained in office since there has been no election.Elections were supposed to take place within six months of April last year, following the Fatah-Hamas agreement that led to the formation of a national unity government.However, they have put on hold indefinitely since then, causing outcry from Hamas who say Abbas has failed to fulfill his promises.In recent days, the unity government has come under intense pressure, with one senior Hamas official branding it a “failure” late on Friday.MP Ismail al-Ashraq said that Hamas no longer supports the unity government of politically-independent technocrats and demands a government comprising all Palestinian factions.Al-Ashraq reiterated Hamas’ demand that elections be held as soon as possible.The official’s comments came less than a week after a government minister announced that the unity government had cut off contact with Hamas following a high-profile government visit to Gaza that ended in disarray on Apr. 20.The visit, aimed at resolving an employee dispute between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas, came to an abrupt end when the delegation of eight ministers alleged that Hamas prevented them from leaving them their hotel or meeting with anyone.
‘Animosity and Misunderstanding’Abbas also used his meeting with the Elders to emphasize the importance of speeding up reconstruction efforts in Gaza, in particular pressing the need for donor countries to meet their pledges.Brundtland said it was unfortunate that she and Carter had not been able to visit the Gaza Strip, although she said, “we have had a chance to discuss with people who know the issues in Gaza.”The delegation had initially been scheduled to visit the coastal enclave but at the last minute cancelled the trip, giving no reason.Highlighting the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was one of the delegation’s key aims during the visit.In a statement released on their official website, the Elders said that since their last visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories in October 2012, they have watched “with dismay the intensification of animosity and misunderstanding between the two parties.”The statement said: “the steadily deteriorating situation in Gaza must be reversed: the enclave has been under siege for eight years, and in 2014 suffered the third of three devastating wars since 2008/09.”The statement said: “Reconstruction is painfully slow.”While former US President Carter has long been an outspoken critic of Israeli practices in the occupied territories, Brundtland served as Prime Minister of Norway when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 and has maintained a close interest in the faltering peace process since.During their three-day visit, the two Elders have spoken with a range of Palestinian and UN officials. They also met with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, as well as Yehiel Hilik Bar, Secretary-General of the Israeli Labor Party, to discuss the Labor Party’s view on the peace process.
(Source / 02.05.2015)