Rival Palestinian Leaders Pledge Unity Talks

Leaders of the rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Tuesday with pledges to seek unity at talks in Cairo in the coming weeks.

Healing the deep rift between them is seen as a vital step towards an eventual peace deal with Israel.

But there was no evident sign of a change of position on either part signaling that their feud, which climaxed with militant Islamist Hamas fighters forcing Fatah forces out of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, would soon be resolved.

"We hope the current national dialogue sessions in Cairo will succeed in ending the division caused by a party that rejected the choice of the people," said top Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh, referring to Fatah.

Fatah had "cooperated with the (Israeli) occupation against their people", he added.

His comments came just days after he suggested that the path to dialogue with president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party was "impassable."

Another Fatah leader had criticized Hamas on Sunday for its refusal to start talks and relinquish control of Gaza, and accused Washington of being an obstacle to talks with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization, according to China’s Xinhau news agency.

Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of Fatah’s parliamentary bloc, said on Sunday that Washington does not support talks with rival Hamas. There is "a consistent American veto and interference in the internal Palestinian affairs" that Hamas boosts by its refusal to start talks give up control of Gaza, he was reported as saying.

The Islamist group sought success in Egyptian-sponsored unity talks with the Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah, but would make no concessions, said Haniyeh.

Abbas marked the feast of Eid al-Fitr by laying flowers at a monument to fallen soldiers in Ramallah, his de facto capital in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership are exerting great efforts for the success of the dialogue that Egypt is holding," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.

A deal in Cairo would pave the way to "comprehensive national dialogue that will be followed by a meeting of Arab foreign ministers", he added.

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman conducted separate talks with the two sides throughout September. He met Fatah last week and will see Hamas officials on Oct 8. A Fatah official said all factions may convene in Cairo on Nov. 4.

(Reuters via Alarabiya.net)

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