Hamas leader says reconciliation with Fatah on the way

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 27, 2010 17:39

Khaled Mashaal says sides have taken "serious and real steps" toward reunification and would meet in Cairo in early October.

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Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

3311_Khaled Mashaal face shot. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

DAMASCUS, Syria — Only minor issues remain for a full reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Mashaal said Monday.

Mashaal did not give details but said the two sides have taken "serious and real steps" toward reconciliation and would meet in Cairo early October for more talks.

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Repeated efforts to reconcile the two sides have failed. Breakthroughs have been heralded before, only to fizzle. Reconciliation would likely require major concessions, including the integration of rival security forces and new elections — issues the group has shown little interest in compromising on so far.

Hamas opposes peace talks with Israel and has threatened to spoil the latest round with violence.

Palestinians have been bitterly divided since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, leaving Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement only in control of the West Bank.

Reconciliation between the factions is important because Abbas needs a unanimous stance in the newly relaunched negotiations with Israel.

"The best way to respond to the Zionist extremism is achieving reconciliation," Mashaal told a meeting of Arab parliamentarians in Damascus.

The rival sides had said Saturday they agreed on steps to end divisions.

The agreement came during a four-hour meeting that ended early Saturday between two delegations headed by Mashaal and senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed.

A joint statement issued after the talks said the two sides have reached an understanding on "the majority of points of difference." It gave no details, but the sides have differed over control of Palestinian security forces and the date for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Egypt has been trying to reconcile the rivals and hosted several rounds of powersharing talks in Cairo last year. Egypt had proposed Palestinian presidential and legislative elections be held in the first half of 2010 and that the security forces be reorganized under Abbas' authority.

Hamas and several other Syria-based Palestinian factions rejected the proposal because it did not state that the Palestinians have the right to "resist Israeli occupation." Fatah accepted the Egyptian plan.


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