Hamas, Fatah Leaders Meet in Cairo for Palestinian Unity Talks

Meeting hosted by President Mohammed Morsi meant to pave way to elections and unity government; Iran FM in Cairo to discuss Syria crisis.

Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will meet President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal on Wednesday to push unity talks between the rival Palestinian groups.

Sources in Cairo said that Morsi, is pressuring Meshal and Abbas to abide by the principles agreed upon in 2011, according to which free and democratic elections would take place and a unity government would replace the two separate governments in Gaza and the West Bank.

Meshal, who arrived from Doha, is accompanied by his deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk and other Hamas leaders; Abbas' entourage includes senior Fatah member Azzam Al-Ahmad.

Both camps have been cautiously optimistic about advancing the agreement, pointing to new developments over the past year, namely the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in Egypt and Morsi's influence on Hamas.

Moreover, relations have cooled between Hamas on one hand and Damascus and Tehran on the other, while ties with Qatar have been getting stronger. On Tuesday, Qatar announced a five million dollar aid package to Egypt, which is undergoing a severe economic crisis.

A senior Egyptian analyst with ties to the president's office told Haaretz that the atmosphere in Cairo is positive and that both sides have arrived boasting recent accomplishments – Hamas emerged with a sense of victory from the last round of conflict with Israel, while Abbas sees his latest UN independence bid as a significant achievement.

Both sides have an interest in reaching an agreement: Hamas today is more dependent on the Muslim Brotherhood, which pushed for the opening of the Rafah crossing and supported Hamas during operation Pillar of Defense; Abbas is facing a political deadlock with Israel which may exacerbate the Palestinian divide and lead to chaos in the West Bank.

Also on Wednesday, President Morsi is scheduled to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. According to reports, the meeting will focus on finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas' political chief Khaled Meshal are seen together during their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011.Credit: AP

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