The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, confirmed its commitment to conducting talks on the implementation of the Palestinian national reconciliation agreement in Cairo, rejecting Fatah’s suggestion that talks should be held in another capital. A Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardawil said today that the idea of relocating is a “diversion of efforts” and not something Hamas will consider; he added that current political turmoil in Egypt will soon come to an end.
For his part Azzam Al-Ahmad, the head of the central committee of Fatah and the leader of the delegation, had recently suggested that if the situation in Egypt remained tense, meetings between his party and Hamas might be held in another capital, especially since Egypt is not directly involved in the talks. Al-Bardawil inistsed that Egypt is the agreement’s only patron and saw Al-Ahmad’s statements as an attempt to test the air. “President Mahmoud Abbas,” he said, “is waiting for an American initiative to mobilise negotiations again before heading to the reconciliation.”
The decision from both sides to take serious steps towards the reconciliation, which had previously stalled for a year, belies the two factions’ long standing rivalry, which boiled over in 2007 after Hamas beat Fatah in legislative elections. Armed members of the two groups battled in Gaza, with Hamas eventually routing Fatah and taking control of the coastal territory while the Palestinian Authority continued to rule the West Bank. Years of mutual suspicion and recrimination followed, with each faction arresting members of the other.
The two sides signed a reconciliation deal last year in Cairo, pledging to set up an interim consensus government of independents that would pave the way to legislative and presidential elections within 12 months. But implementation of the deal stalled over the make-up of the interim government, and a February deal signed by Abbas and Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal in Doha and intended to overcome outstanding differences was opposed by Hamas members in Gaza. After the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November, the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Fatah, allowed Hamas to host a rally in the West Bank, marking the first such gathering since 2007 and suggesting a possible resolution.