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Haniyeh phones Abbas to push forward reconciliation talks

Jan. 6, 2014 10:04 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 10, 2014 9:28 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza Strip Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh phoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in an effort to push forward reconciliation talks.

The phone call comes only hours after Haniyeh announced a decision to allow Fatah members to return to the Gaza Strip, in addition to the release of Fatah members who had been previously arrested for "security" reasons.

Haniyeh's office said in a statement that Abbas welcomed the decisions announced by Hamas today, as they drove reconciliation attempts forward.

Haniyeh told Abbas in the phone call that he wishes to end the division by increasing trust between the two sides, the statement said.

Earlier in the day, AFP reported Haniyeh as saying that "The (Hamas) government will allow all Fatah members who are from Gaza and who left the Strip (in 2007) to return, without any preconditions," apart from those accused of killing Hamas members during intense factional fighting that year.

The statements came amid an outreach campaign by Hamas leaders towards Fatah over the last few months.

As Egypt has destroyed a large number of the tunnels that previously provided a crucial lifeline to the besieged Gaza Strip, Hamas has come under extreme pressure as living standards rapidly deteriorate.

The coastal enclave has been under an Israeli-led blockade since 2006-7, blocking the majority of imports and exports and leading to frequent humanitarian crises.

The division between the two Palestinian factions began in 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.

In the following year, clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of parts of the occupied West Bank.

The groups have made failed attempts at national reconciliation for years, most recently in 2012, when they signed two agreements -- one in Cairo and a subsequent one in Doha -- which have as of yet been entirely unimplemented.
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