You are here

Palestinian factions start reconciliation talks in Cairo

By AFP - Nov 21,2017 - Last updated at Nov 21,2017

Palestinian students who study abroad gather to stage a protest demanding the opening of the Rafah border gate permanently in Rafah, Gaza, on Monday (Anadolu Agency photo)

CAIRO — Leading Palestinian political factions began talks in Cairo on Tuesday aimed at pushing ahead with reconciliation efforts, including discussing the formation of a unity government.

The United Nations has said the reconciliation bid "must not be allowed to fail" or another round of conflict with Israel could break out.

Representatives of 13 political parties were in the Egyptian capital for meetings that were expected to last three days, participants said.

Jameel Mezher, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who was attending the closed-door talks, confirmed to AFP the meetings had begun, without giving further details.

The two largest parties — Fatah and Hamas — signed an Egyptian-sponsored unity deal on October 12 under which Hamas is supposed to cede power in the Gaza Strip by December 1.

As part of that deal, both parties and other smaller groups are expected to discuss several issues in Cairo, including forming a unity government and holding elections.

There have been no Palestinian parliamentary elections since Islamist movement Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from Fateh, which dominates the Palestinian Authority government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Palestinians and international powers hope implementation of the unity deal could help ease the suffering of Gaza's 2 million residents, who suffer from severe poverty and unemployment.

Israel has maintained a crippling decade-long blockade of Gaza, while Egypt has also largely closed its border in recent years.

The division between Palestinian factions has also been cited as one of the largest obstacles to meaningful peace talks with the Israelis.

Previous reconciliation attempts have failed.

The exact timetable was unclear for Tuesday's meeting, which was taking place at the Egyptian intelligence directorate.

Fateh's delegation will be headed by negotiator Azzam Al, Ahmed. On the Hamas side, deputy leader Salah Aruri will be the highest-ranking official present.

Neither Palestinian President and Fateh leader Mahmud Abbas nor Hamas chief Ismail Haniya will attend.

The October accord is supposed to see Fateh retake full control of Gaza, but significant stumbling blocks remain.

In particular, the future of Hamas's vast armed wing, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, is hotly disputed.

Abbas has repeatedly said he will only accept one military authority in the Palestinian territories, but Hamas officials have refused to disarm.

Israel has also said it will not accept any Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group puts down its weapons.

Grant Rumley, research fellow at the US-based Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said the issue had the potential to derail reconciliation efforts.

He said the parties could choose to avoid looking for a final decision on Hamas's weapons at this week's talks, instead looking to build trust between the parties who have been at loggerheads for a decade.

"I think a sign of success is if [the reconciliation push] doesn't break down," he told AFP.

In a crucial first step, Hamas handed over Gaza's border crossings on November 1.

Control of a number of government ministries has also been transferred.

But in recent days progress has appeared to stall, with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah suggesting the Palestinian Authority needed full security control of Gaza before further steps could be taken.

The Fateh-dominated Palestinian government has also refused to remove crippling sanctions on Gaza that include reduced electricity.

up
111 users have voted.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
5 + 8 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Newsletter

Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.