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Egyptian-mediated talks between the rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah broke up Thursday, without a deal on a national unity government, participants said.
The break-up of the talks came just two days after negotiations in Cairo between Hamas and Israel over a prisoner swap to release captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit ran aground.
The breakdown in talks came as Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu is putting together his government, which is expected to be a hard-line team with less inclination to meet Hamas demands.
In the Palestinian unity talks, Hamas and Fatah were trying to agree on the terms of a joint coalition for an interim unity government that would set the stage for elections by January.
The key sticking point was the program of the new government. Another unresolved issue is to what extent Hamas would abide by past accords with Israel.
Fatah negotiators said the new government must commit to the program of the PLO, which recognized Israel in 1993. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, and only wants the new government to "respect" the PLO commitments. Earlier this week, Egyptian envoys sounded out US and European diplomats about whether they would be willing to accept something less than a commitment to the PLO agreements.
After the break-up Thursday, Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum reiterated that his group will not agree to "commit" to the accords or recognize Israel.
Samir Ghosheh, a negotiator for a tiny PLO faction, said Egyptian mediators told the Palestinian representatives on Thursday to pack their bags. The Egyptian hosts did not set a date for a new round, he said. Negotiations had begun last week.
"Personally, I don't think there will be a resumption of talks unless there are clear indications that the problems will be solved," said Ghosheh.
However, Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmed said the talks will continue after an Arab summit at the end of March.
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