Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal announced on Thursday that they have agreed to work as "partners" and said they would open a new page in relations between Fatah and Hamas.

Although Abbas and Mashaal said they held "positive" talks in Cairo, they failed to reach agreement over the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

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However, they did agree to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in May 2012 and release each other's detainees from their prisons.

The two men agreed to hold another meeting on December 22.

"There are no differences between us at all and we agreed to work as partners and share responsibilities," Abbas told reporters after the meeting. "We share the same responsibility toward our people and cause."

Mashaal said in a brief statement that he agreed with Abbas to "open a new page" in relations between the two sides. He said that the two parties were serious about implementing the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement that was reached between Fatah and Hamas last May.

Abbas and Mashaal meet in Cairo to talk unity (Reuters)

"I want everyone to be reassured and await developments on the ground and not talk," Mashaal said. "The atmosphere is positive and we hope that our people would help."

Following the summit, Hamas and Fatah announced that they would hold additional meetings next month to discuss the implementation of the reconciliation accord.

Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said that Abbas and Mashaal discussed all the issues mentioned in the reconciliation accord: reconstructing the PLO, forming a unity government, holding new elections and reuniting Palestinian civilian and security institutions.

Admitting that the two sides have failed to reach agreement on the establishment of a unity government, the Fatah official said that Abbas and Mashaal would hold another meeting in the future to discuss this issue.

Fayyad remains point of contention between sides

Hamas is strongly opposed to the appointment of current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of any government.

A PA official in Ramallah said that Abbas emphasized during the summit that he was unable at this stage to dump Fayyad because of American and European pressure and threats to suspend financial aid to the Palestinians.

(Reuters)

Al-Ahmed said that Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a committee that would look into ways of reconstructing the PLO so that Hamas would be able to join the organization. Hamas has never joined the PLO, which consists of several Palestinian groups - the largest being Fatah.

He added that the two sides also agreed to end the case of "political detainees" who are being held in PA and Hamas prisons in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition, they agreed to lift travel bans imposed by the PA and Hamas governments on members of both parties, al-Ahmed said.

He said that Fatah and Hamas agreed to hold the next elections in May 2012 as envisaged by the reconciliation deal in Cairo.

Hamas and Fatah also agreed on the need to enhance "popular resistance against settlements and the [security] wall," he said without elaborating.

From now on Fatah and Hamas will coordinate their steps in the international arena, the Fatah official said.

Hamas representative Ezat Risheq told reporters that the Abbas-Mashaal summit was "positive and frank."

Risheq said that Thursday's summit "inaugurated a new phase in the life of the Palestinian people - an era with no divisions."

He added that the most significant outcome of the summit was that Fatah and Hamas have now agreed to implement last may's reconciliation accord on the ground. "The Palestinians and the entire world will sense real steps on the ground," Risheq said. He too conceded that the two sides have failed to reach agreement on the formation of a unity government, but said that the issue would be discussed in future meetings between Hamas and Fatah.

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