Major Palestinian Factions Hold Reconciliation Talks in Egypt

Major Palestinian Factions Hold Reconciliation Talks in Egypt

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Hamas and Fatah’s high-level delegations held reconciliation talks in the Egypt capital, Cairo on Tuesday in a bid to restore the territorial unity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The meetings in Cairo are centered on implementing the 2011 Cairo Agreement between the two political parties, in hopes of ending a 10-year political schism.

The 2011 agreement stipulated that legislative, presidential and national council elections should be conducted within one year of its signing. The deal would see both Hamas and Fatah form a Palestinian government to appoint the prime minister and ministerial positions.

Leading the delegations are the deputy head of Hamas's political office, Saleh al-Arouri, and a member of the Fatah Central Committee, Azzam al-Ahmad.

Hamas Politburo member Ezzat al-Rishq, who is part of his party’s delegation in the Egyptian capital, wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday morning that Hamas “is pursuing, with desire and determination, a real national reconciliation with our brothers and partners in the homeland.”

In the meantime, Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh said early Tuesday morning that the talks, which are being held under the auspices of the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate, would focus on enabling the PA to operate in Gaza.

The Palestinian leadership has been divided between Fatah and Hamas since 2006, when the latter scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has ever since been running the coastal enclave, while Fatah has been based in the autonomous parts the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

While Hamas and Fatah have said they want to reunite the Palestinian territories, they have to overcome a number of obstacles to do that.

Over the past week, the parties have expressed divergent views about the future of Gaza’s security.

PA President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian television last week that he would not accept a scenario in which Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, kept control of its weapons.

Meanwhile, Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told Egyptian television a day later that while his party would not cede control of its weapons, it would be prepared to make joint decisions with Fatah about when and how to use them.

Hamas, on several occasions, has stressed that the issue of armed resistance is not up for discussion. "The resistance's weapons are legal," spokesperson Hazem Qassem told the local Maan News Agency. "They are here to protect Palestinians and free their lands [from Israeli occupation]."

In previous reconciliation attempts, Hamas and Fatah failed to reach agreements on Gaza’s security arrangements.

Another major challenge to restoring the unity of the West Bank and Gaza is the issue of the Hamas-appointed employees in the Gaza Strip.

Since taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has appointed 40,000 employees to work in Gaza’s ministries. The PA does not recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas-appointed employees and has tens of thousands of its own employees in the Strip, who have not worked for the past 10 years.

Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmeh told the official PA radio that Gaza's electricity crisis, the salaries of PA employees in the coastal enclave, security and the administration of border crossings are among the topics to be discussed.

The talks in Cairo are slated to last for three days, but could be extended depending on the progress made.

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