Fatah ready for reconciliation with Hamas

AFP and Ahram Online, Monday 21 Feb 2011

Against the backdrop of sweeping popular movements Fatah seeks reconciliation with Hamas

The Fatah party of Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas, is ready for new talks with the rival, Hamas, over a long-elusive reconciliation, a spokesman said on Sunday.

“In the national interest, the Fatah movement underlines the need to respond to the demands of the Palestinian people to put an end to the division with a view to ending the [Israeli] occupation," Azzam al-Ahmad said in Ramallah.

"We are ready to meet the Hamas leadership so that the Egyptian document can be signed," he added, referring to a Cairo-brokered deal that Fatah had already endorsed, but Hamas baulked at.

On Thursday, young Palestinians converged in central Ramallah to call for unity between the main two Palestinian factions.

Badur Zamara, one of the protest organisers, said they gave the two sides until 5 March to cut a deal.

The rivalry between Hamas and Fatah dates back to the early 1990s. It soured dramatically after the Islamist movement, Hamas, won elections in 2006 and, a year later, seized control of Gaza after deadly street fighting with Fatah.

Since then, the Palestinian territories have been effectively split in two, with Abbas' (Fatah’s) rule confined to the West Bank only.

Repeated attempts at getting the two parties to reconcile their differences, spearheaded by the regime of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, have led nowhere.

Each side has accused the other of undermining trust by persecuting political rivals in the territory under their respective control.

Hamas did not object to the formation of a unity government, media reports said. A senior Hamas party member also told the Ma’an News Agency on Sunday that they had suggested the creation of a unity government only to be shot down by the Palestinian Authority.

One Hamas leader, Ayman Daraghma, did not exclude the possibility of Hamas participating in a new PA government. As protests engulf the region and neighbouring states, Daraghma finds in this atmosphere a motivation for Fatah to seek reconciliation.

"We should be patient as the new government is formed. It is possible that we could shortly form a unity government, which includes Hamas. This is essential if we are seeking to reach national conciliation," said Nabil Shaath, member of the Fatah Central Committee to Ma'an Sunday.

Hamas had refused to sign the Egyptian unity document (a reconciliation pact) unless it was altered.

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