Palestinian Authority’s Abbas, Hamas’ Meshaal talk reunification


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REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK -- Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and his rival, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, met in Cairo on Thursday to discuss ways to implement a reconciliation agreement they signed more than six months ago.

The leaders revealed very little in public after the two-hour meeting, saying only that it was positive and held in a good atmosphere. Aides said there was agreement on little things, but not on the major issues.


“The atmosphere was positive and there weren’t any disagreements when we discussed the various issues,” said Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. “We want to work as partners and we have a joint responsibility toward our people and cause.”

Meshaal, whose Hamas organization has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, also gave a positive impression about the meeting, stressing that the two leader had “opened a new page” in their relationship.

Abbas’ negotiator with Hamas, Azzam Ahmad, said the two leaders agreed to hold presidential and legislative elections by May, the date the two had agreed upon in the reconciliation accord. They also agreed on confidence-building measures after more than four years of bitter and bloody rivalry.

However, the most important issue dividing them, the formation of a government -- including who will run it -- remained a point of contention.

Abbas has wanted his Western-backed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to run a government of national unity that would work on reuniting the West Bank and Gaza Strip and prepare for national elections. Hamas was adamant in rejecting him.

Hamas official Izzat Rishek said after the meeting that the issue of the government was discussed. “Even though we did not announce a new government today, we have reached an understanding on some arrangements and we will hold further discussions on this later,” he said.

Abbas and Meshaal agreed to meet again around the end of December.


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-- Maher Abukhater