Latest round of talks 'a total failure'

Cairo sends Palestinian delegates home; Hamas, Fatah negotiators agree to meet again next month.

Omar Suleiman 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Omar Suleiman 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Hamas and Fatah negotiators have once again failed to reach agreement over the formation of a Palestinian unity government, sources close to the two parties said on Thursday. The sources said that the two sides agreed to meet again next month in another bid to resolve their differences. According to the sources, Egyptian mediators who participated in the Hamas-Fatah "reconciliation" talks in Cairo over the past 48 hours expressed deep disappointment over the failure. A Fatah official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that the Egyptians asked both sides to leave Cairo immediately. He ruled out the possibility that the talks would eb resumed in the near future. "It's a total failure," he said. "We are just wasting our time because Hamas is not going to change." The talks were held under the auspices of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service. Izzat Risheq, a member of the Hamas delegation, confirmed that the two parties had failed to resolve their differences. "No progress was made toward reconciliation," he said. Earlier, Fatah and Hamas negotiators said the Egyptians banned them from talking to the media until the two parties reached an agreement over the formation of a unity government. On Wednesday, the two sides were summoned to the Egyptian capital with the hope that they would be able to solve four main sticking points: the political platform of the new government, the reconstruction of the Palestinian security forces, reforming the PLO and setting a date for holding presidential and legislative elections. On Wednesday night, the negotiators held intensive meetings that lasted for more than 10 hours at the headquarters of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service in Cairo. Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman attended the first few hours of the talks, urging both sides to do their utmost to reach agreement over a unity government within the next few days. On Thursday, Suleiman held separate meetings with the Fatah and Hamas negotiators who told him that the gap between the two sides remains wide. "The Egyptians have instructed us to boycott the media," said a member of the Fatah delegation to the talks. "They told us that we are only allowed to say that we want to end the divisions among the Palestinians." A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip complained that the Egyptian General Intelligence Service was treating members of his delegation "as if they were wanted criminals." He said that senior Egyptian security officers had imposed severe restrictions on the movement of the Hamas delegates, who also had their cellular phones confiscated. He added that both Hamas and Fatah negotiators had been under immense pressure from their Egyptian hosts to conclude a deal within the next few days. The Egyptians, he said, are desperate for an agreement because they believe it would boost the regime's standing in the international arena. Meanwhile, Hamas called on the Palestinian Authority to reconsider its position toward all agreements that were signed with Israel in the aftermath of the formation of the new government in Israel. Hamas spokesman Salah Bardaweel said that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's remarks regarding the Annapolis understandings showed that all the agreements that the PA had signed with Israel were pointless. Bardaweel said it was inconceivable that the PA was asking Hamas to accept the two-state solution and all the agreements that were signed with Israel at a time when the new government in Israel was openly declaring that it wouldn't honor these accords. "The PA and Mahmoud Abbas need to understand that the Zionist enemy will never abide by the agreements," he said. "This enemy is only interested in deepening divisions among the Palestinians." Former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei accused the government of Binyamin Netanyahu of seeking to "liquidate" the peace process by ignoring the Annapolis understandings and rejecting the two-state solution.