Talks in Cairo Wednesday between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah on reviving their unity government were taking place in a "positive atmosphere," officials said.
The two-day talks, which began Wednesday, come after a joint Palestinian delegation and Israel agreed to hold separate indirect talks in late October to thrash out a lasting truce after this summer's 50-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.
"There is a positive atmosphere in which the talks are being held," senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq told journalists after a break for lunch.
In a clear reference to Israel, Rishq said there were "sides" who benefit from divisions among Palestinian.
"We are keen on the success of the (reconciliation) dialogue. We need to be united while facing the occupation because the challenges are major and require more unity and collaboration," Rishq said.
The head of Fatah's delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, said the talks will focus on "the return (of the unity government) in the Gaza Strip and the implementation of its authority without obstacles."
The talks are crucial for internal Palestinian divisions to be set aside and the two rival factions to agree on a unified strategy during talks with Israeli negotiators.
The rivals set up a unity government of independents in June but are at loggerheads again, with president Mahmud Abbas threatening to end the administration and accusing Hamas of running a "parallel government" as de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas in turn accuses Abbas's Palestinian Authority, headquartered in Ramallah, of not paying its 45,000 employees in Gaza.
The unity government is also crucial ahead of an international donor conference on October 12, to be hosted by Cairo, on the reconstruction of Gaza.
Under Egyptian mediation, Israel and the Palestinians agreed on August 26 to a ceasefire that ended the offensive.
The Israeli assault ended with an agreement to hold future talks on Palestinian demands to end an eight-year blockade of Gaza and exchange prisoners in Israeli jails for the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online.