Abbas, Meshal Hold Talks in Cairo in Bid to Reach Conciliation Agreement

An Egyptian official said the leaders of the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions had agreed to implement a long-delayed reconciliation pact, although it is unclear if the deal will extend beyond holding more talks.

Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury

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

An Egyptian official said the leaders of the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions had agreed to implement a long-delayed reconciliation pact, although it was unclear if the deal would extend beyond holding more talks.

"It was agreed that sides would begin immediately to implement the previously agreed mechanism of the agreement signed," a senior Egyptian official involved in the talks, who declined to be named, told Reuters by phone from Cairo.

Sources in Cairo said Morsi is pressuring Meshal and Abbas to abide by the principles agreed on in 2011, whereby free elections would take place and a unity government would replace the two divided 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 mildly 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 its ties with Qatar have gotten stronger. On Tuesday, Qatar announced a $5 million aid package to Egypt, which is undergoing a severe economic crisis.

A senior Egyptian analyst with ties to Morsi'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, Morsi was scheduled to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. According to reports, the meeting was to focus on finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

Morsi, right, with Abbas in Cairo on Wednesday, January 9, 2013.Credit: AP

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