Fatah and Hamas will sign a reconciliation agreement in Cairo on Wednesday,
ending a four-year feud between the two main Palestinian movements that remain
ideologically and geographically divided.
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas
spokesman, said all Palestinian factions and independent Palestinian politicians
met in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the agreement, brokered by Egypt and
initialed last week.
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“[After] all the factions [have] signed today and
tomorrow, we will celebrate the reconciliation under Egyptian patronage,” he
told Reuters, adding that both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal would be in attendance.
Abbas – the
head of Fatah, the largest faction in the PLO and the PA – was expected to speak
at the ceremony.
Mashaal, based in Damascus, arrived in the Egyptian
capital Sunday. On Monday he met with the head of Egyptian intelligence
Mourad Mowafi, the Al-Ahram website reported. The meeting would have been
unthinkable before February’s ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, an
ardent opponent of Hamas’s parent organization the Muslim
Israel has been watching developments in the Palestinian
arena with trepidation.
Shlomo Brom, director of the Program on
Israel-Palestinian Relations at the Institute of National Security Studies,
expressed his concerns in a policy paper on Tuesday.
“Israel and the US
will have to decide whether there are only risks latent in this agreement –
mainly the risk of Hamas taking over the PA, including the West Bank – or if
there are opportunities,” Brom said.
“If the agreement is a result of
Hamas weakness, and not a sign of its strength, it is worth examining whether it
is possible to create a situation whereby the president of the PA and the
government of technocrats continue to maintain their present relationship with
Israel, and Hamas is forced to swallow this and cooperate with a process that is
ultimately liable to threaten it,” he added.
A day before the
reconciliation gathering in the Egyptian capital, smaller Palestinian factions
signed a reconciliation deal on Tuesday to show their backing for the
“Fatah and Hamas will sign with full names tomorrow in a
signing ceremony celebrated by all,” one Palestinian official
Diplomats said foreign and Arab dignitaries, including EU Foreign
Policy chief Catherine Ashton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, were
also invited to the ceremony.
However, a press officer at the EU mission
in Cairo said Ashton was in New York, and therefore unable to
Britain on Monday embraced the impending reconciliation
“We welcome the reconciliation and the work done by Egypt,”
Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in Cairo after meeting Egyptian
Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby. “Of course, lots of details have to be worked
out, and we will have to judge everyone by their actions and intentions. We will
continue to work closely on this.”
Hague also met the head of Egypt’s
ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and interim
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
The interim PA government – which officials
said would consist of independent technocrats, with no affiliation to either
main faction – is, under the reconciliation deal, to prepare for parliamentary
and presidential elections within a year.
Egypt’s state-run MENA news
agency said that Hamas and Fatah will release prisoners held by each side, and
start talks on setting up the new government after the ceremony.
has said it will help oversee the implementation of the accord.
accord calls for creating an interim unity government for the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip, instead of the separate administrations led by Fatah and
Hamas.Reuters contributed to this report.