Abbas and Haniyeh speak amid reconciliation efforts

PA chairman and Hamas leader speak for the first time in nearly a year.

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Ben Ariel,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the Fatah faction, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke Monday for the first time in nearly a year, AFP reports.

Abbas spoke with Haniyeh by phone from New York and "expressed his satisfaction with the prevailing atmosphere of reconciliation", according to a statement on the official PA news agency Wafa.

A Hamas statement quoted Haniyeh as saying that Hamas was "determined to move ahead with steps to end the division, will all willingness and determination, with the goal of uniting our Palestinian people".

A Hamas spokesman told AFP that the two had not spoken since meeting in Qatar in October 2016.

The conversation follows Hamas’s announcement from Sunday, in which it declared it agreed to talks with the Fatah movement as well as to dismantle the Gaza administrative committee, which served as a local independent governing authority.

Abbas’s spokesman later welcomed Hamas’s decision, calling it "a step in the right direction" and a "genuine historic opportunity" to end the rift between the sides.

As a first step towards implementing a larger agreement, the head of the PA government Rami Hamdallah plans to visit Gaza City to meet Hamas officials and assert the government's control over ministries, said Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Abbas.

"We await the first steps on the ground. We want to see Hamdallah received by Hamas, the door to all the ministries open," he told journalists in Ramallah, according to AFP. "That really could happen in the next 24 hours."

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza in a bloody coup, and all attempts to reconcile the sides have failed.

A unity government between the sides collapsed in 2015 when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides.

The tensions have escalated recently after Hamas established an administrative board tasked with running the day-to-day affairs in Gaza. After the establishment of the committee, the PA finally acknowledged that it has no control over Gaza and has been trying to force it to return control of the enclave by creating economic pressure on the group.

In a sign that reconciliation talks could restart, Haniyeh recently expressed a willingness to begin talks with Fatah following meetings with senior Egyptian officials.

Later, sources in Fatah said that a delegation on behalf of the group would visit Cairo in an attempt to resolve the longstanding Fatah-Hamas conflict.