Egypt's president meets Hamas leader
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi met for the first time with Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, an offshoot of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Egypt's official news agency MENA quoted Morsi's spokesman Yasser Ali late Thursday as saying that the two discussed "solutions to lift the siege" of the Gaza Strip, as well as efforts toward reconciliation between Hamas and its rival, western-backed Fatah.
MENA said that Haniyeh was part of a 16-member delegation which crossed to Egypt from the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday for a three-day visit. He will also meet with new prime minister Hesham Kandil. The meeting was the first between Morsi and Haniyeh since Morsi assumed his post on June 30.
Shortly before the visit, Egyptian authorities ordered freer temporary entry into the country for Palestinians, easing long-imposed travel restrictions that hit Gazans in particular.
Hamas was jubilant over Morsi's election, hoping the Egyptian leader would help Gaza's flagging economy. Hamas officials in the territory have said that once Morsi settles into his job, they expect him to transform the Gaza-Egypt border crossing into a vibrant cargo route with free trade zones.
Analysts believe that creating such a link would keep Hamas in power for years, reviving an economy battered by a blockade imposed by Israel and Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Haniyeh's visit comes a week after a series of meetings between Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian leaders.
Last week, Morsi met Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Muslim Brotherhood's top leader, Mohammed Badei also met with the Ramadan Shallah, the head of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, on Wednesday.