BEIRUT

Middle East

Hamas, Fatah hold new round of reconciliation talks in Egypt

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (R) meets with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo on January 9, 2013. (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

CAIRO: The Palestinian president and the leader of Hamas held talks Wednesday in a bid to seize on the recent goodwill between their rival factions and reach a long-elusive reconciliation agreement, a senior Palestinian official said.

The meetings between President Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal marks the latest attempt by the rival Palestinian leaders to bridge the gap between their groups. But many obstacles remain before the sides can settle their differences, chief among them how to deal with Israel.

Several rounds of reconciliation talks over recent years focused on finding ways to share power have failed to yield results, and the official said no immediate breakthrough was expected in the meetings Wednesday at Abbas’ residence in Cairo. Hamas also is not ready since it will hold internal elections to replace Meshaal, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

The official said that Abbas will call upon all Palestinian factions to hold a larger meeting in Cairo at a later date to discuss reconciliation.

The two Palestinian groups have been at odds since the Islamic militant Hamas overran Gaza in 2007, ousting forces from Abbas’ Fatah. Since then, Abbas has ruled in the West Bank, and Hamas has held sway in Gaza.

While past efforts to end the split have failed, the two sides have tried to make a show of unity since Hamas’ fierce battle with Israel in November and Fatah’s subsequent recognition bid at the United Nations.

Earlier in the day, Abbas and Meshaal held talks individually with Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi. Mursi hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist Islamist group that is the parent organization of Hamas.

Abbas has enjoyed a boost in his status since he led the successful bid for non-member observer state at the U.N.

Hamas, meanwhile, has gained new support among Palestinians following eight days of fighting with Israel in November, when Palestinians militants for the first time lobbed rockets toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 10, 2013, on page 1.

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