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Palestinian rivals make fresh attempt at unity

25 november 2011, 11:58
Hamas leader Meshaal speaks with President Abbas. ©Reuters
Hamas leader Meshaal speaks with President Abbas. ©Reuters
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal meet in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Thursday in a bid to cement a reconciliation deal that has stalled for more than six months, AFP reports.

After a summer of scepticism over prospects for a real rapprochement between Abbas's secular Fatah movement and its Islamist rival Hamas, a new optimism has emerged in recent weeks.

"President Abbas intends to deploy all possible efforts to reach a global Palestinian agreement and reach an understanding on a common political vision for all the movements," senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed told AFP in Cairo on Wednesday.

Hamas officials expressed similar sentiments about the talks, which are to begin at 11:00 am (0900 GMT)

"We want this meeting to open a new page and a new hope for the Palestinian people," Hamas deputy head Mussa Abu Marzuk told AFP on arrival in the Egyptian capital.

Izzat al-Rishq, another of the group's Damascus-based leadership, said the talks "will start with a face-to-face meeting between Abbas and Meshaal which will last about two hours."

On the agenda are key issues including the adoption of a unified Palestinian strategy, forming an interim government, reform of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and agreeing on a date for elections.

Rishq said Hamas was committed to finding a way to implement the reconciliation.

"We want unity and the end of the division so we can achieve our rights," he told AFP .

And he criticised Washington and the European Union, which have both warned they will not work with a government that includes Hamas unless the Islamists recognise Israel, renounce violence and agree to abide by previous governments.

"Unfortunately the Americans and Europeans have taken negative positions on the meeting between the brothers Meshaal and Abbas," Rishq said.

"This position is the result of their desire for the continuation of the Palestinian division so they can continue to impose their dictates on the Palestinian people."

If the talks are successful, there will be a follow-up meeting in December with all the Palestinian factions to finalise the agreements reached, officials said this week.

Hamas and Fatah, which respectively control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, have long been political rivals, but tensions spilled over into deadly violence in 2007 with Hamas forces eventually routing their Fatah rivals and taking control of the Gaza Strip.

They signed a surprise agreement in May to end their long-standing bitter rivalry, but it has yet to be implemented.

It called for the immediate formation of an interim government to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections within a year.

But the two sides have so far failed to agree on the composition of the caretaker government and, in particular, who will head it.

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