Fatah, Hamas Hold Reconciliation Talks

Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah called Monday for the forming of a national unity government, which is acceptable to the international community, before Gaza’s crossings open, a position in apparent conflict with that of Hamas.

Palestinian officials from the Islamist Hamas group and President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party held talks in Cairo to pave the way for possible reconciliation after Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Palestinian officials said.

The officials said Jamal Abu Hashem of Hamas and Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah held the talks, the first in 10 months, on the sidelines of meetings between Palestinian groups and Egyptian intelligence officials.

"We want a government of national unity which will supervise reconstruction and crossing points so the crossing points are completely open, so that we can bring in products necessary for reconstruction such as cement and steel," Ahmed told journalists.

"We must guarantee that any future government will not be boycotted," Ahmed said, referring to the West’s refusal to deal with a Hamas government unless the movement renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Ahmed stressed that Fatah is obliged to take the position of the international community, which calls for Hamas to satisfy certain conditions and for forces loyal to Fatah to return to the Gaza Strip.

The Fatah position appears to be in opposition to that of the Hamas, who said following Egyptian-mediate talks on Sunday that they want Gaza’s crossing points open before Palestinian reconciliation talks.
Complex and Thorny Issue

The Hamas delegation said that they would mull an Israeli proposal for an 18-month renewable truce in Gaza, but said the issue of policing Egypt’s Rafah crossing point with Gaza was "complex and thorny."

"We are open to the presence of European observers, Turkish observers and forces from Gaza’s national security to open (Rafah) on a temporary basis until the formation of a national unity government," Hamas leader Ayman Taha said.

Under a 2005 deal, Rafah can only be opened to normal traffic if EU observers and forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority are present.

Hamas wants to "complete the truce, lift the siege and reopen the crossings before engaging in (Palestinian national) reconciliation," Taha said.

The two sides last held formal talks in March 2008 in Yemen, whose efforts to broker a deal broke down after disagreement over whether Hamas should cede control of the Gaza Strip before talks started. Later, in November, Egypt delayed a round of planned talks after Hamas threatened to boycott the meeting.

The current talks come a week after Abbas urged feuding Palestinian factions to form a unity government to prepare for elections after Israel’s Gaza offensive killed roughly 1,400 Palestinians and wounded nearly 5,500 more. Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians were reportedly killed.

Hamas, which won 2006 Palestinian elections, wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007. Abbas, still in control of the West Bank, is backed by the West and Israel but seen as weak by leaders of some Arab states like Syria.

(Agencies, Alarabiya, PC)

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