Leading Palestinian political factions began talks in Cairo yesterday aimed at pushing ahead with reconciliation efforts, including discussing the formation of a unity government. Representatives of 13 political parties are in the Egyptian capital for meetings that are expected to last three days, participants said.
Jameel Mezher, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who is attending the closed-door talks, confirmed to AFP the meetings had begun, without giving further details.
In a crucial first step, Hamas handed over Gaza's border crossings on Nov. 1. Control of a number of government ministries has also been transferred. But in recent days progress has appeared to stall, with Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah suggesting the Palestinian Authority needed full security control of Gaza before further steps could be taken.
The Fatah-dominated Palestinian government has also refused to remove crippling sanctions on Gaza that include reduced electricity. On Monday, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the UN Security Council that, despite the challenges, the reconciliation "must not be allowed to fail." "If it does, it will most likely result in another devastating conflict," he said. Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement Oct. 12 on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo, with president Mahmud Abbas calling it a final accord. The move came after two days of negotiations in the Egyptian capital on the governing of the Gaza Strip as part of the most serious effort to date to end the 10-year rift between the rival Palestinian groups. Under the agreement, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority will regain full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by Dec. 1, according to a statement from Egypt's intelligence agency, which oversaw the talks.
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept the 2006 legislative elections that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel, and the international community. Hamas has ruled Gaza, while Abbas's Fatah has controlled autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.