Fatah, Hamas reach Egyptian-brokered reconciliation

Parties reach agreement on interim government, set a date for elections; Hamas, Fatah leaders to be invited to Cairo for signing ceremony.

PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Abd Alhalim Abu Aska)
PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abd Alhalim Abu Aska)
Following a series of secret meetings in Cairo and Damascus over the past few weeks, Hamas and Fatah announced on Wednesday that they have struck a deal to form a “national unity” government and hold elections after one year.
The agreement, which has been hailed by both sides as “historic,” was reached under the auspices of the Egypt’s Foreign Ministry and General Intelligence Force.
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Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby said that the agreement was aimed at paving the way for the Palestinians to seek UN recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lines in September.
“Palestinian divisions can’t continue while efforts are being made to ensure recognition of a Palestinian state,” Elaraby said, adding that we was planning on visiting Ramallah soon for talks with Palestinian Authority officials on this and other matters.
Representatives of the rival parties signed initial letters of an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement, said Izat Risheq, member of the Hamas delegation that held talks in Cairo with Fatah officials.
He said that Egypt would invite leaders of all Palestinian factions to attend the signing ceremony of the formal reconciliation agreement between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal.
The Hamas delegation to the reconciliation talks was headed by Mashaal’s deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, while the Fatah team was headed by Azzam al-Ahmed.
Mahmoud Zahar, member of the Hamas delegation to the Cairo discussions, said that the accord calls for the formation of an interim unity government that would consist of “professional” figures and reviving the work of the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has been paralyzed because of the Hamas-Fatah dispute.
The two parties have also agreed to release Hamas and Fatah prisoners held in each other’s jails and the establishment of a joint security committee, Zahar added.
Ahmed said that the two sides have reached agreement on all points of contention, including the make-up of the unity government, fixing a date for presidential and parliamentary elections and restructuring the PLO.
He said that next week the Egyptians would summon representatives of all Palestinian factions to Cairo to hear their observations about the Hamas-Fatah deal.
Ahmed said that the Egyptian authorities have been holding secret contacts with Hamas and Fatah in the past few weeks in a bid to end the dispute between them.
Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, dismissed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s warning to the PA that it must choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas.
Abu Rudaineh said that Netanyahu must choose between a just and comprehensive peace with a unified Palestinian people and settlements.
“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas is an internal issue and Israel has nothing to do with it and it’s not a party to it,” the spokesman said. “The agreement enhances the unity of the Palestinian people and their just struggle to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
This was not the first time that the Egyptians had announced an agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
In late 2009, the two parties were close to signing a deal in Cairo, but the ceremony was cancelled in the last minute after Hamas backtracked in protest against Abbas’s failure to support a motion at the UN Human Rights Council that would have endorsed the Goldstone report into Operation Cast Lead.
In February 2007 Hamas and Fatah signed the first unity government agreement in Mecca. However, the agreement collapsed a few months later when Hamas seized full control over the Gaza Strip.