Hamas, Fatah to swap prisoners: coordinator

GAZA CITY- The two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, have agreed on a prisoner swap, an official involved in ongoing reconciliation talks told AFP on Saturday.
The agreement calls for both sides to present before January 15 a list of political prisoners it wants released, said Khaled al-Batch, a leader from Islamic Jihad.

Batch is coordinator of the "committee of general freedom" in the unity talks between long-time rivals the Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah.
It was also agreed that newspapers produced in the Fatah-controlled West Bank will be allowed into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip "and vice versa," Batch said after a meeting between the two camps.
Such newspapers have been barred from the respective territories for several years because of divisions between the factions.
The deal also calls for "the settling of the question of passports," Batch said.
The Ramallah-based West Bank interior ministry will be allowed to issue passports to Hamas loyalists, which had been blocked for years, Batch said.
He also downplayed a Friday incident in which a Fatah delegation said it was barred from entering Gaza to participate in reconciliation talks.
Batch said the flap resulted from a "lack of coordination and information."
Since 2007, the Palestinian territories have been politically divided into two, with Fatah largely ruling the West Bank and Hamas governing Gaza.
In April, following years of bitter rivalry, the two factions signed a reconciliation deal whose implementation has since stalled.
Last month, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo and the two agreed on a process that would pave the way for Hamas to join a reformed Palestine Liberation Organisation and for long-delayed Palestinian elections.

Sunday, January 8th 2012

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