Senior Hamas officials met Egyptian mediators in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss an Egyptian proposal for a Palestinian unity government, the official MENA news agency reported.
The talks with the Islamist Hamas came after a string of meetings with a dozen Palestinian factions, including the Fatah party of president Mahmoud Abbas, over the past two months to form a national unity government.
The Egyptian proposal includes a transitional government made up of ministers acceptable to all factions and a restructuring of Palestinian security forces with Arab oversight.
Echoing the positions of both sides, Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters: "We are interested in ending the internal divisions and restoring unity to the people and the homeland."
Egypt has also proposed a government of technocrats for the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas since fighting with Fatah 16 months ago, that would prepare parliamentary and presidential elections there and in the West Bank, where Abbas’s movement holds sway.
The head of Fatah’s parliamentary bloc said on Tuesday that his movement supported a "transitional government of national consensus" but refused to form a national unity government with Hamas.
"Such a (unity) government can only be formed after presidential and parliamentary elections are held," Azzam al-Ahmed said, adding that Hamas had "every day put a new condition" in the way of dialogue.
Egypt has been acting as a mediator between Fatah and Hamas after the Islamist party, which won a majority in parliamentary elections in 2006, seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, routing forces loyal to Fatah.
Israel, which regards Hamas as a terrorist group, responded to Hamas’s win in the elections with sanctions, and almost completely blockaded the impoverished coastal strip after Hamas seized power in 2007.
Fatah continues to administer the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Restoring his authority over Gaza is crucial for Abbas’s credibility as Palestinian leader.
But accommodating Hamas could hurt his negotiations with Israel and backing by Western powers. Hamas rejects coexistence with the Jewish state.
Hamas lawmakers, who dominate a parliament hamstrung by the rift, voted on Sunday to declare they would cease to recognise Abbas as president once he completes four years in office this January. They urged him to hold a presidential election now.
(Agencies and AlArabiya.net)