Hamas and Fatah are set to sign a "reconciliation agreement" on October 22, ending their power struggle and paving the way for presidential and parliamentary elections, Egyptian and Palestinian sources said over the weekend.
Husam Zaki, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, announced that his country had achieved a major breakthrough in its efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah crisis.
Hamas and Fatah leaders held separate, "positive" talks with Egyptian government officials in the past few weeks about a proposal for ending the dispute, Zaki said.
The spokesman revealed that representatives of various Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, would hold a conference this month to discuss ways of achieving "national unity."
Three days after the conference, Hamas and Fatah will sign a "reconciliation accord," he added.
Egyptian sources said the agreement would call for the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip and the establishment of an Arab committee to supervise the elections.
The agreement also calls for the return of Palestinian security
forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai, the sources said. That would see the terminal, which has been closed for more than two years, reopened on a permanent basis.
European monitors who were stationed at the border crossing from 2005, in line with a US-brokered agreement, would also be permitted to return, the sources said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman are scheduled to meet with Abbas on Monday to put the final touches on the Hamas-Fatah accord. The meeting will take place in Amman in the presence of Jordanian government officials.
The two Egyptian officials will then fly to Damascus for similar talks with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal and representatives of other Palestinian factions.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, confirmed that his movement was planning to attend the intra-Palestinian conference in Cairo. He said a senior delegation headed by Mashaal would arrive there on October 18.
Barhoum also confirmed that Hamas and Fatah would sign an agreement ending their differences on October 22.
The Egyptians are proposing that elections be held in the PA territories during the first half of 2010. The plan also calls for forming a joint Hamas-Fatah security force in the Gaza Strip.