Palestinian Hamas, Fatah chiefs begin talks in Egypt



CAIRO- Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal began talks in Cairo late on Wednesday on a stalled reconciliation deal between the rival factions, an AFP correspondent said.
It is the first meeting between the West Bank's Fatah leader Abbas and Meshaal, who heads the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip, in almost a year, and is aimed at ending years of bitter and sometimes deadly rivalry.



On their visit to Cairo, the two leaders are also holding separate talks with Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
Meshaal and Abbas are set to to focus on implementing an Egypt-brokered April 2011 unity agreement aimed at ending years of infighting which was signed in May that year, but whose main provisions have yet to be put into practice.
The Palestinian national movements' rivalry exploded into violence in June 2007 when Hamas forces seized control of Gaza a year after they won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.
Meshaal met Abbas in Cairo in February 2012, but there has been little progress towards ending the crippling divide between their movements.
Morsi met Abbas earlier on Wednesday and discussed Palestinian reconciliation, the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the financial woes of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which Fatah dominates.
"Morsi promised to work towards lifting the Gaza blockade and helping Palestinians out of their financial crisis, lobbying donors and (our) Arab brothers," Fatah's lead negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed told AFP.
The Egyptian president is also due to hold separate talks with Meshaal.
Egypt has boosted support for Gaza since the Islamist Morsi was elected president in June.
Even before the Palestinian leaders met on Wednesday, there was no let up in the recriminations.
"Egypt's invitation does not necessarily mean this meeting will lead to a serious start of implementing" the agreement, said Yousef Rizq, political adviser to Hamas's prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya.
"Abbas's insistence on holding elections first affects the atmosphere of the meeting," he said, stressing that all the provisions in the agreement should go into effect simultaneously.
But Ahmed said Abbas wanted the election committee to resume its work, "and after the committee ends its work, and there is a consensus government, then there will be elections."
He said a senior Hamas official had told him the reconciliation deal should be implemented after the Islamist movement "reorders its house" -- in an allusion to possible elections for a new leadership for the Islamist group.
Egyptian officials have said that a reconciliation deal that would allow Hamas representation in the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, historically headed by Fatah, and the formation of a unity government, are opposed by Washington.
The United States, along with other Western countries and Israel, say Hamas must renounce violence and recognise Israel.
Hamas is officially sworn to Israel's destruction but says it could accept a Palestinian state on the basis of the lines which existed before the 1967 Six-Day War when the Jewish state captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
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Thursday, January 10th 2013
AFP
           


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