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(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas and Fatah officials traded accusations over the weekend, holding each other responsible for the collapse of the reconciliation talks that were aimed at forming a new Palestinian unity government.
The negotiations, which were held in Cairo under the auspices of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, were called off on Thursday after the two sides failed to solve most of their differences.
Hamas and Fatah spokesman said the talks might restart at the end of April. However, Fatah officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that, given the wide gap between the parties, it was highly unlikely the talks would be resumed in the near future.
The officials said that the Egyptian mediators were "very angry" with both sides for failing to agree on the formation of a Palestinian Authority unity government.
According to one official, a senior Egyptian security official told representatives of Fatah and Hamas that Cairo was "fed up" with their ongoing power struggle and was reconsidering its role in seeking to end the dispute.
Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah official and a member of the group's delegation to the reconciliation talks, blamed Hamas's "intransigence" for the failure of the Egyptian mediation efforts.
"Hamas's insistence on the establishment of a new government that fits the movement's requirements was the main reason behind the failure," Shaath explained. "The talks have gone back to square one because of Hamas's intransigence."
Shaath stressed that any new government must meet the conditions of the international community, first and foremost accepting all the agreements that were signed between the Palestinians and Israel. "The new government must have a clear political platform," he said. "This is the only way that we would be able to deal with the international community."
Another top Fatah official who attended the talks, Azzam al-Ahmed, said the negotiations failed because Hamas did not come up with new ideas.
"The Hamas delegation came from Damascus with nothing new," he said. "They came with the same ideas they have been carrying since the beginning of the talks several weeks ago."
The differences centered on the political program of the proposed unity government and Hamas's demand that the PLO be reformed and that the Palestinian security forces be reconstructed, Ahmed said. The two sides also failed to agree on the nature and timing of the next presidential and legislative elections in the PA-controlled territories, he said.
He said that he and his Fatah colleagues were surprised to see that Hamas had not changed and was still refusing to accept the two-state solution.
"Unfortunately, the brothers in Hamas are continuing to display stubbornness," Ahmed said. "It's regrettable to see that Hamas and [Foreign Minister] Avigdor Lieberman share the same views when it comes to accepting the two-state solution."
The Fatah representative expressed relief over Cairo's position during the talks, noting that Egyptian General Intelligence Service Chief Omar Suleiman had been supportive of the Fatah strategy. Hamas, he added, made a mistake by assuming that the Egyptians would endorse their position.
Hamas, on the other hand, accused Fatah of seeking to impose the conditions of the US and Israel on the Islamist movement during the talks.
Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, said the Hamas negotiators were shocked to see that Fatah was trying to impose the "unjust" demands of the Middle East Quartet and Israel on the Palestinians, which call for renouncing violence, accepting previous agreements signed with Israel and recognizing Israel's right to exist.
"The Fatah negotiators came to Cairo with the clear intention of foiling the talks," Nunu said. "They even refused to discuss the agenda of the talks, insisting all the time that Hamas accept their demands unconditionally and instantly."
Another Hamas official told the Post that the Fatah negotiators rejected his movement's demand that all the Palestinian security forces be reconstructed.
"Fatah's position is that only the security forces in the Gaza Strip must be rebuilt," the official said. "They claimed that there was no reason to change the security forces in the West Bank because they were functioning properly."
It was unclear if the talks would be resumed in the coming weeks, the Hamas official said. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the role the Egyptians were playing and claimed that Cairo was biased in favor of Fatah, Israel and the US.
"It's hard to say that the Egyptians are honest and fair mediators," the official said. "The Egyptians have long been acting to serve the interests of the Fatah leadership in Ramallah and appease the Israelis and Americans."