'Fatah-Hamas talks moving forward'

Sides accept Yemeni initiative "as framework for resuming dialogue," agree to resume talks in April.

Haniyeh  224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Haniyeh 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas and Fatah signed a statement in San'a Sunday saying that they "accept the Yemeni initiative as a framework for resuming dialogue" to restore the normalcy that existed in Gaza before Hamas's takeover of the coastal region last June. Although no final agreement was reached over control of the Gaza Strip, both sides agreed to resume talks in the Yemeni capital. Hopes were also raised that Hamas would eventually agree to renounce its control of Gaza, hand back the control of the Mediterranean strip to the Palestinian Authority and restore a power sharing national unity government. Despite the fact that Sunday's development reflects a failure of the Yemen-brokered meetings held over the last five days, it is still a small step forward in getting rival Palestinians to start talking to each other. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was present when both sides signed the statement at a ceremony Sunday in San'a, said the Palestinian talks would resume in April. He didn't set a specific date, but Palestinian officials close to the talks said the meeting would likely come as early as April 5. "This is the first round of talks and we will help Fatah and Hamas to reach agreement in the interest of the Palestinian people," pledged Saleh. The reconciliation talks in Yemen began Tuesday when delegations from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Party and Hamas flew in for talks with Yemeni officials on ending their divisions. The talks, based on a seven-point plan proposed by Saleh to end the dispute between the Palestinian rivals and rebuild the shattered Palestinian Authority, briefly broke down Thursday but were back on after Hamas's top leaders reviewed the final draft of a statement signed Sunday. Azzam al-Ahmed, deputy prime minister and leader of Fatah lawmakers in the Palestinian parliament, and Hamas's deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, signed the statement, entitled "San'a Declaration." Saleh called on rival Palestinians to stop what he described as a media provocation campaign by each side and acknowledged that "there are some difficulties" but that "the good will expressed by the two sides will bring great achievements." Both Abu Marzouk and Ahmed said the division between them benefited Israel. Hamas and Fatah broke ranks after fighters loyal to Hamas forcibly seized control of Gaza from Abbas's ruling Fatah last June. The clashes between the two shattered a Saudi-sponsored Mecca deal brokered in February, when the two groups agreed to share power in a national unity government. The Yemen gathering's chief achievement was that the Palestinian factions met for the first time in signing the statement Sunday after holding proxy talks with Yemeni officials. Many previous attempts by several Arab mediators to bring the Palestinians together failed. Abbas insisted Hamas should apologize first for its military takeover of Gaza. The Yemeni initiative calls for the creation of a national unity government and the rebuilding of security forces loyal to a common government rather than to factions. It also calls for Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan, to form a council to oversee the implementation of the Yemeni plan. Hamas won the December 2006 Palestinian elections, but later its leaders differed with Abbas on power sharing and peace with Israel. The struggle climaxed in June 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza, driving out forces loyal to Abbas, whose government now controls only the West Bank.