Thursday, January 10, 2013

Morsy steers Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks

DUBAI, January 10, 2013

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsy is holding talks to reconcile differences between Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas — a step that reinforces Cairo's leadership in regional diplomacy to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Mr. Morsy is slated to meet later on Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Khalid Meshaal, the Hamas leader, who has arrived in Cairo from Doha — his new abode in exile after he decided to quit Damascus, his previous headquarters.

Before heading for talks with Mr. Morsy, the two Palestinian leaders held detailed discussions with Egypt's intelligence chief.

Wednesday's meeting is adding to the momentum for reconciliation that was imparted last Friday, when, for the first time after a gap of five years, Fatah was allowed to host a massive rally in Gaza.

Hamas has been administrating Gaza since June 2007, when Fatah was forced out from the coastal strip following bitter fighting between the two factions.

Fatah officials said that hundreds of thousands of people participated in celebrations in Gaza City\'s al-Saraya square on Friday. In a recorded message that was played to the crowds, Mr. Abbas said: "Soon we will achieve unity and end the occupation, raising the Palestinian

flag over Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem."

While the timing of unity talks seemed particularly appropriate following the intermingling in Gaza of supporters from Fatah and Hamas, this is not the first occasion when a serious effort has been

mounted to bring the two factions together. In 2011, Fatah and Hamas had agreed to a reconciliation deal that would have led to presidential and legislative elections by May 2012. But the agreement could not be enforced as the two sides failed to agree on a single leader who would head the transitional government.

Less than a year later, Mr. Abbas and Mr. Meshaal signed another agreement where it was

decided that the President would lead the transition. But this initiative also did not take root as Hamas leaders, who claimed they were not consulted, accused Mr. Meshaal of subscribing unilaterally to the deal.

Officials in Mr. Abbas' entourage sounded upbeat about the prospects of talks. Speaking to Jordan's Al-Ghad newspaper, Azzam Al-Ahmad, Fatah's point person for the reconciliation efforts said: "We hope that Hamas might succeed in stabilising its internal situation as the reconciliatory atmosphere seems stronger than ever, especially after it recently allowed a pro-Fatah rally in Gaza." He pointed out that Mr. Abbas was keen to end the "stalemate" in inter-Palestinian negotiations.

As internal fighting engulfs Syria, Egypt and Qatar, known for their support for the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, have been making a concerted effort to champion the Palestinian cause, with Hamas — an offshoot of the Brotherhood — emerging as the chief beneficiary.
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