Abbas, Haniyeh fail to reach deal

Officials describe talks as "positive," more meetings scheduled for Monday.

abbas haniyeh 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
abbas haniyeh 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met late Saturday night to try to put the finishing touches on reconciling their parties' stances over the prisoners' document. They failed to reach a deal, but participants said the talks were positive, and more meetings were scheduled Sunday. Officials on both sides said they were closer to reaching agreement between Abbas's Fatah and Haniyeh's Hamas after the two met Friday. The document, drafted by members of rival Palestinian groups in Israeli jails, proposes a PA unity government and focusing on attacks in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Sticking points were Hamas recognition of Israel and support of a two-state solution, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said. The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel. The group reportedly agreed, however, that Abbas and the PLO would manage all negotiations with Israel, with the understanding that any diplomatic proposals would be presented to the Palestinian people as a referendum, in which all Palestinians, including those living outside the PA, would vote. However, Channel 2 reported, Fatah demanded that the Hamas government disband immediately upon signing the agreement. Erekat said he was not optimistic the two would come to a swift agreement. "I wouldn't jump to conclusions. The two sides are still debating," he said. "I think we are very, very close to achieving a big compromise and a final agreement, but I think we need a little time and a little patience," said Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led PA government. A Hamas-Fatah agreement could mean an end to infighting that has killed and wounded dozens in recent weeks. Gun battles between rival supporters have become common, with many fearing a civil war. If a deal on power sharing is not reached, Abbas has pledged to call a referendum on the prisoner's document on July 26. But there were "optimistic signals" an agreement was imminent, Abbas adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, predicting a deal would be announced soon. He said the parties needed to agree on a government that would be acceptable to the international community and on a formula for a truce with Israel. However, the parties have been saying they were close to a deal for days. Meanwhile, UAL MK Ahmed Tibi told Army Radio that the agreements meant that the Kassam rocket launches on Israel would stop. The Islamic Jihad movement, however, declared that it had no intention of joining the Hamas-Fatah agreement, saying they did not want to "set any limits" to their fight against Israel. AP contributed to this report.