Palestinian rivals make fresh attempt at unity

AFP , Thursday 24 Nov 2011

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

Hamas & Fatah
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal speaks with President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Cairo, May 4, 2011. (Photo:Reuters)

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 (PLO) and agreeing on a date for elections.

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 earlier this week.

Fatah and Hamas, which respectively control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 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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