Gaza City (The Star/ANN) - Malaysia has offered to help unite rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas.
The first Malaysian Prime Minister to visit Palestine, Najib Tun Razak expressed support for a reconciliation plan to end the division between the two Palestinian movements.
"A unity government is within reach," the PM said after being conferred an honorary doctorate by the al-Aqsa University in East Jerusalem yesterday.
He said that peace and prosperity could only be achieved through unity, a belief strengthened by Malaysia's success in facilitating talks in the southern Philippine to end four decades of conflict that had killed over 120,000 people.
"Should it be needed, we stand ready to offer you the benefit of that experience. Malaysia, always a friend of the Palestine people, is willing to help facilitate the reconciliation plan in whichever way we can," he said.
A split between the two groups in 2007 led to the West Bank being governed by Fatah and the Gaza Strip by Hamas. The two sides signed a reconciliation plan sponsored by Egypt in May last year.
Najib, who was in Gaza on a humanitarian visit, said his commitment to a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian issue was clear.
"We wish to see an independent, unified Palestine, enjoying the peace and security which all the world's peoples deserve."
While describing himself as a friend of the Palestinians, he paid tribute to Malaysians for commitment to their cause.
"It is my people who reach out with offers of assistance, who give what they can to help the people here, who keep Palestinian innocents in their thoughts whenever there is violence here," Najib said.
He said this commitment could be seen in the funds and medical supplies donated to a Malaysian solidarity charity mission and those who travelled to Palestine to disburse them.
Earlier, after crossing the Egyptian border into Gaza by land, Najib, accompanied by his wife Rosmah Mansor, was met on arrival by the Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
Najib, who was accorded an official welcome, laid the foundation stone to rebuild the Gaza administrative office building destroyed during an Israeli attack in November before visiting a school project initiated by Malaysia.
Najib and Rosmah later departed for Cairo where the Prime Minister called on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Malaysia and Egypt then signed a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement.
The PM leaves Cairo today for Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.