GAZA - The two top Hamas leaders failed at secret talks in Qatar on Sunday to resolve an internal crisis over a reconciliation pact with the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a diplomat in the region said Monday.
The first open leadership split in the 25-year history of Hamas - the militant, Iranian-funded organization which opposes a peace treaty with Israel - arose over how far it should go in closing ranks with Fatah.
"Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh met last night in Qatar to discuss the dispute in Hamas over the Doha agreement," the diplomat told Reuters, naming the two main figures in the organization.
Meshaal has recently quit his longtime Damascus headquarters, politically embarrassed by Syrian President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown on an uprising waged by fellow Sunni Muslims. Haniyeh flew to Qatar from Iran, Syria's ally and a sworn enemy of Israel and its Western supporters, which was displeased by Meshaal's refusal to stay and support Assad.
The two Islamist leaders are not, however, on opposing sides of the internal dispute in Hamas, but are trying to resolve differences in its collegial leadership between Meshaal and Gaza-based group leaders close to Haniyeh, analysts say.
"The crisis persists," the diplomat told Reuters after the Qatar meeting. He asked not to be identified.