A senior Hamas official said on Thursday that next week's talks on security cooperation with rival Fatah could narrow Palestinian divisions but suggested that reconciliation was some way off, citing disagreement over the Palestinian Authority's peace negotiations with Israel.
Hamas and Fatah fought a civil war in 2007 that left a deep schism between the Palestinian factions, with the Islamist Hamas taking control over Gaza and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah extending its influence in the West Bank with U.S. support.
The two sides are due to hold talks next week on control of Palestinian security forces, the main sticking point which has held up Egyptian-led efforts to end their rift.
Izzat al-Rishq, a senior Hamas politburo member, said Thursday that "further efforts to reach an agreement on a national political program", including a joint position on talks with Israel - which Hamas opposes.
"These negotiations have divided the Palestinian people. We said from the start they are futile and lead to nowhere," said Rishq, who lives in exile in Syria along with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and other senior members of the group.
Direct talks between Israel and Abbas' Palestinian Authority have been on hold since a 10-month partial Israeli freeze on settlement building in the West Bank expired on September 26.
Rishq went on to say that the November 9 talks in the Syrian capital Damascus would cover the "very sensitive security file" and look at "restructuring and rebuilding of security apparatus."
Hamas has accused Fatah of coordinating with Israeli forces against it in the West Bank, and Rishq said that any agreement depended on Fatah rejecting Israeli pressure.
"The success of the upcoming negotiations between us and the brothers in Fatah hinges on whether there would be an independent national Palestinian will away from Israeli ... conditions," he said in an interview.
Two years of Egyptian mediation have so far failed to end the dispute between Hamas, which is also supported by Iran, and the more secular Fatah.
Hamas has been reluctant to sign a proposed Egyptian accord because the group considered it biased toward Fatah and could result in Fatah maintaining control over the official Palestinian security apparatus.
Rishq said Hamas wanted the establishment of a "high security committee which will supervise security policies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and follow up on the restructuring and the rebuilding of the security apparatus".
"We hope that the next stage is a stage to open the door to ending the division and to sign a reconciliation agreement," he added.