abbas haniyeh 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian rival groups Fatah and Hamas held a series of "ice-breaking" meetings ahead of wider reconciliation talks aimed at repairing the gaping rift between the two groups, members said Wednesday.
The discussions, mediated by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, focused on releasing detainees and ending the negative media campaigns each side is waging against the other. Hamas politburo member Izzat Rashaq said the idea was to create a positive atmosphere between the two groups.
Azzam al-Ahmed, of Fatah delegation, described the talks as "very positive, deep and tackled all issues of conflict," and expressed hope they would end "the state of divisions."
Distrust between Hamas and Fatah runs deep after a three-year power struggle, including a civil war that ended with Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, leaving President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah only in charge of the West Bank.
Hamas claimed Abbas' government ran a Gaza spy ring that fed Israel information about Hamas targets during the fighting. Fatah accused Hamas of killing and wounding dozens of Fatah activists under the cover of the war.
Top Palestinian officials Ahmed Qureia of Fatah and Moussa Abu Marzouk of Hamas led the preliminary meetings ahead of Thursday's main reconciliation discussions.
In a goodwill gesture, Fatah released 42 Hamas detainees in the West Bank and promised to release more.
Rashaq of Hamas hailed the step but described it as not enough.
"This step should be reinforced by releasing the rest of the detainees to end the state of hostility and begin a real reconciliation," he said and warned that unless Fatah releases more, "it will turn to a bomb that would explode in the face of the Palestinian-Palestinian talks."
Palestinian representative in Egypt, Nabil Amr, said Abbas is considering releasing more Hamas detainees, but those being held in West Bank prisons are "security" detainees, rather than political prisoners.
"But even those detained over security concerns, are eligible to be reconsidered," he said.
The Egyptians envision talks involving five negotiating committees covering goodwill gestures, forming an interim government, holding presidential and legislative elections, restructuring the security services and finding a role for Hamas in the Fatah-run Palestine Liberation Organization.
This is the fifth meeting this year between Hamas and Fatah delegations in Egypt.