Two Days of Talks Fail to Bring Hamas-Fatah Unity

Divisions remain as PA factions meeting in Cairo wrap up two days of talks aimed at reconciling Hamas and Fatah.

Elad Benari ,

Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal
Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal
Flash 90

Palestinian Authority factions meeting in Cairo wrapped up two days of talks aimed at reconciling rival groups Hamas and Fatah late on Saturday, although divisions remained over how exactly to apply the deal, an official said, according to AFP.

The talks, which began on Friday, were held under the umbrella of the provisional governing body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

"We agreed with Hamas to start consultations with the Palestinian factions about the formation of a government of technocrats led by President (Mahmoud) Abbas under terms of the Doha Agreement," Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmad told reporters, referring to a deal between Hamas and Fatah nearly a year ago.

"There was agreement over most of the questions, except several points concerning the election law for the (Palestinian) National Council," he said of the PLO's sprawling legislature, according to AFP.

PLO Executive Committee member Wassel Abu Yussef had earlier said that the main points of dispute were over the way elections were held for the PNC, as well as other issues relating to legislative and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority-assigned areas.

He also said there was disagreement over the timing of the establishment of a caretaker cabinet, which is supposed to prepare for new elections, and the announcement of a date for such a poll.

"Fatah wants the government formed at the same time as a decree setting the date for elections," Abu Yussef said.

"Hamas wants the government to be formed first to end the division before the date of elections is decided."

Maher al-Taher, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine delegation, agreed there would need to be more talks to iron out differences of opinion.

"The atmosphere was positive but we need another meeting to sort out some interpretations and differences in point of view," he told reporters.

Another point of dispute is the type of voting system to be used, officials said.

Fatah and independent figures in the PLO provisional governing body want the same system to apply for the PNC and parliament, whereas Hamas wants proportional representation within the Palestinian National Council, AFP reported.

The Cairo talks were convened by Abbas, whose Fatah faction signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in April 2011 aimed at ending years of rivalry, but which has never been properly implemented.

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since Hamas violently took over control of Gaza in 2007.

The sides appeared to have been getting closer since Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in November. During the counterterrorism operation, the two factions announced they have decided to end infighting. The Palestinian Authority later announced it will release Hamas-affiliated detainees as a goodwill gesture to boost reconciliation efforts.

Several weeks later, for the first time since its violent takeover of Gaza, Hamas allowed the Gaza branch of Fatah party to mark its anniversary in the region. Abbas and Hamas's politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, later met in Cairo to discuss the reconciliation.