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Talks between various Palestinian factions are expected to resume in Cairo after the Muslim feast of Id al-Fitr, which begins later this week, sources in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The talks will focus on the possibility of extending the unofficial truce with Israel that was announced in Cairo earlier this year, the sources said. Representatives of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the People's [Communist] Party have already received invitations from the Egyptian government to attend the discussions.
Egyptian diplomats and intelligence officers based in the Gaza Strip met over the past few days with leaders of all the Palestinian factions and agreed that the talks will be held in Cairo shortly after the feast.
PA officials said the Egyptians made it clear that their purpose to secure an agreement to extend the truce, or tahdiya [calm], for another year. "Egypt is exerting heavy pressure on all the factions, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to agree to an extension of the truce," said one official. "They believe that this is in the best interest of the Palestinians." Another official said Egypt's argument is based on the assumption that the extension of the truce would put Israel under pressure from the US and the international community to implement the road map.
"The Egyptians don't want to give Israel an excuse to avoid fulfilling its obligations under the road map," he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the PA leadership has decided to exclude Farouk Kaddoumi, chairman of the Fatah central committee, from the Cairo talks because of his continued criticism of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunis, has in recent months been waging what PA officials term a campaign of incitement against Abbas with the aim of undermining his leadership.
The Fatah delegation to the talks will be headed instead by Abu Maher Ghnaim, a senior member of the ruling party who lives in Jordan.
On the eve of the talks, Abbas, in a good will gesture to Hamas, decided to allow newspaper affiliated with the Islamic move ment in Hebron to reappear. The newspa per, Akhbar al Khalil [News of Hebron] was shut down by the PA three years ago because of its criticism of the PA leadership.
The PA then also decided to close down two other Gaza-based newspapers, Risalah and Al Istiklal, which belong respec tively to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.