A Palestinian Fatah party delegation, returning home from the Hamas-run Gaza strip, said Friday the rival factions have taken major steps toward a reconciliation deal.
"We have paved the way to new ties based on cooperation and trust," senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath said upon returning from the three-day Gaza tour.
Accompanied by a delegation of Ramallah politicians, Shaath arrived in Gaza on Wednesday to become the first Fatah official to visit Gaza since the democratically-elected Hamas government had to limit its rule to the coastal strip in 2007.
During his stay, Shaath met with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a number of Hamas government ministers.
Fatah’s chief negotiator said his talks with the Gaza officials revolved around the "need to end Palestinian divisions," and that the Islamic movement had said it was ready to sign an Egyptian-brokered deal already signed by Fatah.
"The brothers in Hamas said they will sign the agreement, and when this happens — the two movements will renew the Palestinian unity," he said.
Shaath’s comments came a few days after Head of Hamas Political Bureau Khalid Mashaal said in Damascus that a Palestinian reconciliation agreement was in reach.
Hamas has repeatedly called for direct talks with Fatah leaders, saying the rival factions need to join hands and form a united front to stand against Israel.