Abbas, Mashaal to continue unity talks in Cairo

Discussions on formation of Palestinian unity gov't to resume next week; Fatah official denies PA president to visit Gaza.

PA President Abbas meets Hamas chief Mashaal in Qatar 390 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Thaer Ghanaim/PPO/Handout)
PA President Abbas meets Hamas chief Mashaal in Qatar 390 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thaer Ghanaim/PPO/Handout)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal are scheduled to hold another meeting in Cairo on February 23 to discuss the formation of a Palestinian unity government, Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official, said on Wednesday.
Ahmed said he was unaware of plans for Abbas to visit the Gaza Strip later this month.
Sabri Saidam, member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, ruled out the possibility that Abbas would travel to the Strip soon. He said that the issue of Abbas’s visit to the Strip was not discussed during meetings of the PA leadership in Ramallah.
Saidam confirmed that the two parties were close to reaching agreement on the make-up of the unity government, which would be headed by Abbas and dominated by technocrats. According to Ahmed, the serious negotiations for the formation of the government will begin on February 23.
The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper claimed on Wednesday that Abbas would visit the Strip later this month together with Mashaal, within the framework of a “broader” reconciliation agreement than the one signed in Qatar two weeks ago.
The paper quoted Palestinian sources as saying that the new agreement will “pave the way for the resumption of negotiations with Israel.” The sources said that Israel has agreed to release 40 Palestinians who had been arrested before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and an additional 1,000 prisoners as part of a series of concessions to encourage the PA to return to the negotiating table.
The Fatah official denied reports that Abbas would also meet with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh during his visit to Cairo.
Haniyeh, who visited Iran last week, is opposed to the Qatar-brokered reconciliation pact.
Haniyeh and Mashaal met in Doha late Tuesday for the second time this week in a bid to solve the dispute within Hamas over the reconciliation deal. Haniyeh said after the meeting that he agreed with Mashaal on “mechanisms” for the implementation of the Doha deal, but did not elaborate.
Nabil Sha’ath, another senior Fatah official, said that a high-level delegation from his faction was planning to visit the Strip soon to discuss the implementation of the reconciliation deal.
Sha’ath said that the Fatah- Hamas talks would focus on preparations for holding presidential and parliamentary elections.