Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, said after meetings with senior Egyptian officials that the organization is willing to begin reconciliation talks to advance the establishment of a Palestinian unity government with Fatah in the West Bank.
Hamas had previously demanded that Abbas halt a series of measures taken against the Islamic militant group before sitting down to discuss a reconciliation deal.
Haniyeh and a delegation of Hamas senior leadership left the Gaza Strip on Saturday for meetings in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials, including head of Egyptian intelligence general Khaled Fawzy.
After talks with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Haniyeh said Hamas was willing to dismantle the administrative board tasked with running the day-to-day affairs in Gaza. Its management has escalated tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, including its leader Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has cut funding to the Strip.
Such announcements have been made in the past, but rarely in the presence of Egyptian officials, indicating this could be the beginning of a new era of reconciliation talks between the warring Palestinian factions.
Abbas cut electricity in Gaza and slashed the salaries of tens of thousands of public servants in a bid to compel Hamas to dissolve a contentious committee it formed to run the territory in defiance of Abbas' government.
Among the others in Haniyeh's delegation are reportedly the head of Hamas in Gaza Yahyah Sinwar and Sinwar's deputy Khalil al-Hayya, as well as representatives from the Islamist movement abroad including Moussa Abu Marzouk, who is apparently coming to Cairo from Qatar.
In a terse statement, Hamas announced that Haniyeh and members of his delegation would be talking to senior Egyptian officials about mutual relations and steps that Egypt might take to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip, bordering Egypt as well as Israel. The steps would be based on understandings developed in recent months.
Since the delegation left Gaza, Hamas has been trying to project optimism concerning its relations with Egypt and the possibility the talks could lead to a significant easing in the blockade on Gaza and arrangements for opening the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority is looking to restrain enthusiasm and is sending the message that Egypt does not intend on carrying out steps that would damage the legitimacy of the PA and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The rival Palestinian factions split in 2007 when Hamas violently routed forces loyal to Abbas from Gaza. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have since failed.
AP contributed background to this story
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