Fatah, Hamas trade blames over delay of reconciliation

2012-12-15 12:53:49 GMT2012-12-15 20:53:49(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

RAMALLAH/GAZA, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- Islamic Hamas movement and its rival Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday traded blames over failing to set up a specific date for resuming the reconciliation talks to end the ongoing internal division.

Officials in the two movements said that a date for holding a meeting of the temporary leading body of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was formed last year, hadn't been yet set up. The body was scheduled to convene in Cairo soon in coordination between Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.

Azzam el-Ahmad, Fatah Central Committee member and head of Fatah delegation to the dialogue with Hamas, who is currently in Cairo, told Xinhua that there are ongoing contacts between the two movements to speed up setting up a date for the meeting. He declined to give more details.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Assaf, Fatah party's spokesman in Ramallah, told Xinhua that the meeting will be held in Cairo upon the invitation of President Abbas "only when the circumstances are suitable." Abbas proposed to meet during last month's eight-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

"The unstable situation in Egypt, which sponsors the reconciliation dialogue between Fatah and Hamas, was the only reason for not setting up a date for the meeting," said Assaf. Egypt has been sponsoring the dialogue between the two since Hamas had violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Beside the unstable political situation in Egypt, Abbas and other Fatah leaders hinted that setting up a date was postponed due to the internal elections of Hamas movement to chose a successor to Meshaal. However, Hamas rejected these justifications and considered it as "evasion."

Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, told Xinhua that "the internal Hamas elections can never influence the file of internal reconciliation," adding that "Hamas leaders are ready to work till the last second in case there is a progress achieved."

"Fatah is saying illusive justifications on who is delaying the achievement of reconciliation. It seems that it's not interested in achieving the reconciliation right now because the question of resuming the peace negotiations with Israel is more important than the reconciliation," said al-Bardaweel.

Assaf responded to al-Bardaweel as saying that the only representative body that decides on the resumption of the talks with Israel "is the PLO," which represents all the Palestinians, adding "the PLO always keeps in mind the merits and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."

Both haven't met yet, despite recent positive signs that each rival has shown to the other following the Israel-Palestinian conflict last month and the United Nations' granting Palestine a non-member observer state on Nov. 29.

After the success of the UN bid and the end of the eight-day conflict, Abbas declared that the upcoming task for the Palestinians "is to achieve and finalize the internal reconciliation as well as end the current division." Hamas and Fatah are saying they are ready for reconciliation.

"We are against minimizing the issue of reconciliation, and we are ready to directly achieve it. But the reconciliation should be based on three facts, the PLO, a joint national platform and a democratic leadership that jointly rearrange the Palestinian National Authority," said al-Bardaweel.

Abbas and Meshaal, who both paid a four-day visit in Gaza last week, signed in February in Qatar a reconciliation understanding to form a six-month national unity government headed by Abbas to prepare for general elections and end division.

The agreement faced much opposition by Hamas hard-liners, mainly appointing Abbas as prime minister of the new temporary government. Disagreements also obstructed the implementation of the reconciliation deals and understandings signed in both Cairo and Qatar.

When Meshaal was in Gaza, he repeatedly promised to achieve reconciliation and end more than five years of division between the Gaza Strip and West Bank. However, he didn't mention anything related to the mechanism of achieving it.

On Thursday and Friday, the PNA for the first time in five years allowed Hamas supporters in the West Bank to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hamas. In return, Hamas hasn't yet decided on whether to let Fatah supporters mark the 48th anniversary of Fatah.

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