Cairo Expecting Fatah-Hamas Unity Agreement

Palestinian delegations representing President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Islamist movement Hamas agreed on Sunday on forming a common security force in the Gaza Strip until the beginning of elections in January 2010, a senior Fatah official was quoted as saying by Egypt’s official MENA news agency.

"We have agreed on the principles to form a common force between the two factions in the Gaza Strip until holding the forthcoming elections in January 2010," MENA quoted senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath as saying.

Egypt stepped up the pressure on the Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo for unity talks to come up with an agreement in the coming weeks, MENA said.

A fifth round of talks between Fatah and Hamas began in Cairo on Saturday under the supervision of Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

He "has proposed during talks with both parties late on Saturday that the next round of talks be devoted to an announcement of the end of divisions," MENA said.
Expecting an Agreement Soon

A senior Egyptian official told the agency the talks were now in their final phase.

"We expect an announcement on the signature of an agreement in Cairo at a date that will be fixed in the coming weeks," the official said.

Azzam al-Ahmed, heading the Fatah group, confirmed to MENA that this session was the penultimate one.

He said the talks centered on a new electoral law, reforming the security services and a coordination committee proposed by Egypt to liaise between Ramallah and Gaza City, mainly on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

Reconciliation between the rival groups is vital for the reconstruction of Gaza after Israel’s devastating offensive at the turn of the year, since aid pledges from international donors are conditional on the money passing through Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

On Sunday the delegations discussed the "legal scope, composition and remit" of the Cairo-proposed committee. "This issue still has to be discussed in detail," MENA quoted Ahmed as saying.

Officials from both Fatah and Hamas indicated that the two groups have accepted an Egyptian proposal to abandon the idea of a unity government.

The so-called Quartet — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States — has long demanded that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel and past peace agreements as a precondition for dealing with any Palestinian government in which the Islamist movement is represented.

( and Agencies)

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