Meshal and Abbas - AP - Dec. 21, 2011
Khaled Meshal, political leader of Hamas, left, meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo Egypt, December 21, 2011. Photo by AP
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Hamas has moved to join the Palestine Liberation Organization - a key step toward unifying the long-divided Palestinian leadership, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

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Hamas' leader Khaled Meshal on Thursday joined a committee that will prepare for elections to the PLO leadership, according to AP.

Those elections are likely years away but Meshal's move means he will work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the rival Fatah party.

The PLO is the umbrella group of the Palestinian independence movement. Should Hamas join the PLO, it would have to accept all of the PLO’s commitments, including those toward Israel.

In the Palestinian elections due to take place in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas and Fatah will run separately.

Thursday's development is an important step toward reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah - which have been split since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Members of several Palestinian factions met in Cairo on Thursday as part of reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas.

Intensive talks have been taking place in recent days in Cairo, leading up to Thursday’s meeting that addressed the issue of elections and the restructuring of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Israel has rejected the reconciliation efforts, refusing to negotiate with a government including Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

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