Hamas: Ready for talks with Fatah, to hold elections in Gaza

September 17, 2017 05:27

Attempts to reconcile the two groups and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have repeatedly failed.

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Hamas: Ready for talks with Fatah, to hold elections in Gaza

The son of senior Hamas militant Mazen Fuqaha sits on the shoulders of Hamas Gaza Chief Yahya Al-Sinwar as Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) gestures during a memorial service for Fuqaha, in Gaza City March 27, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Hamas has agreed to talks with rival Fatah movement, to dissolve the Gaza administrative committee and hold general elections as a way to implement a deal to end their long-running feud, the group said in a statement on Sunday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority, controlled by Fatah, fought a war with Hamas over Gaza in 2007, which led to Hamas taking over.

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Attempts to reconcile the two and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have repeatedly failed.

Hamas said in its statement that it agreed to dissolve the administration running Gaza, allow the reconciliation government to carry out its duties in the territory, to hold elections and enter talks with Fatah.

Mahmoud Aloul, a senior Fatah official welcomed cautiously Hamas's position. "If this is Hamas' statement, then this is a positive sign," he told Reuters. "We in Fatah movement are ready to implement reconciliation."

On September 11, Hamas announced that it was ready to "hold meetings with Fatah in Cairo immediately to achieve a [reconciliation] agreement."

Two days later, a senior Fatah official said Hamas must fulfill a series of conditions before any meeting can take place.

“There will be no meetings or dialogues” until Hamas announces the dissolution of its governing body in the Gaza Strip and enables the Palestinian Authority government to assume responsibility in its place, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad told official PA radio.

Ahmad and a handful of other Fatah officials were scheduled to travel to Cairo in the coming days to discuss reconciliation with Hamas with Egyptian officials.

According to a Hamas spokesman, the new chief of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on September 9 to hold talks with senior Egyptian officials on his first such visit as leader.

In the past few months, Hamas has sought to mend relations with Egypt, which controls their one border crossing and has, under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, been highly wary of ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted from power by Sisi after mass protests.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, a densely populated coastal territory that shares borders with Egypt and Israel, with which it has fought three wars since 2008.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the talks with Egypt will focus on alleviating the blockade and mending a longstanding rift with rival group Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

There was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials on the talks.

Israel, which signed a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and coordinates closely with it on security, is maintaining a close watch on discussions between Egypt and Hamas. Like the United States and the European Union, it regards Hamas as a terrorist group.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this story.

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