Palestinians end bitter row, open ‘new page’

Palestinians end bitter row, open ‘new page’

Palestinians end bitter row, open ‘new page’

The long-estranged leaders of the two rival Palestinian political movements hailed a new “partnership” yesterday after talks in Cairo that have set the stage for a landmark reconciliation deal.

“We want to assure our people and the Arab and Islamic world that we have turned a major new and real page in partnership on everything do to with the Palestinian nation,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said following the two-hour talks in the Egyptian capital with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Islamist group’s secular rival, Fatah.

The two are trying to finalize a unity deal that would result in an interim unity government and elections in May.

 “There are no more differences between us now,” said Abbas. “We have agreed to work as partners with joint responsibility.”

The talks were the first since they inked a reconciliation deal in May.

A Hamas official, Izzat Rishek, said the two agreed they would go ahead with elections as planned, according to the Associated Press.

The May deal was hailed as the beginning of the end of years of bitter rivalry between the Palestinian movements, which boiled over in 2007, when Hamas took control of Gaza a year after winning a surprise electoral victory.

But implementation of the agreement, which called for a transitional government of independents to pave the way for elections within a year, has proved tricky. The composition of the temporary government, and who would head it, has proven particularly contentious, with Abbas seeking to keep on his current prime minister, Salam Fayyad, over objections from Hamas, Agence France-Presse reported.

Successive rounds of talks between lower-level officials failed to move the process forward, but earlier this month, Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed confirmed that he had held secret discussions with his Hamas counterpart, Mussa Abu Marzuq.

Ahmed said the talks had produced broad agreement on the principles for choosing a consensus government, though reports have suggested there is continuing disagreement about its composition. No announcement has so far been made on candidates for the prime minister’s post, and Ahmed said the names were likely to be discussed at a later stage, possibly when the factions meet in December.

Other issues discussed at the talks included a restructuring of the factions’ rival security forces, as well as changes to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which does not currently include Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli daily Haaretz reported yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinian Authority should “stop the reconciliation process with Hamas and choose to distance themselves from unilateral moves” in order to restart stalled Mideast peace talks.