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Al-Ahmad: Egypt wants Hamas-Fatah deal signed in October

Oct. 13, 2009 9:34 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 14, 2009 9:30 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egypt wants rival Palestinian factions to sign a power-sharing agreement on 20 October, Fatah leader Azzam Al-Ahmad confirmed Tuesday.

Al-Ahmad told Ma’an in a phone interview that Hamas and Fatah are expected to reply to Egypt’s latest proposal by Thursday, in the form of a simple “yes” or “no.” Provided that both approve the proposal, the remaining factions are to submit their answers by the 20th, and the deal will be signed the same day.

However, a formal signing ceremony will not take place until after the Eid Al-Adha holiday, the official said.

Al-Ahmad, who is personally involved in the negotiations, said that Fatah is considering the proposal, and that the party’s Central Committee has signaled a “positive attitude” toward it.

He said that the reason for the multi-stage signing process was that Hamas officials who recently held talks in Cairo with the Egyptian mediators had expressed a “negative attitude.”

Importantly, Al-Ahmad stressed that Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas plans to issue a decree on 25 October calling for new elections whether an agreement is signed or not. Hamas is opposed to calling immediate elections, on the arguing that a deal should be signed first, followed by several months of campaigning and preparing for elections.

The Fatah official said the latest draft of the Egyptian reconciliation document takes into account the work of five official Palestinian committees set up last February to address the outstanding issues: reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), elections, security, overall reconciliation, and government construction.

The PLO and reconciliation committees, the official said, are proceeding according to past agreements. However, there is disagreement in the elections committee about the electoral system.

The government committee, he said, has agreed that, instead of a full-fledged transitional government, a multi-faction coordinating committee will be established in the unity deal. This committee will supplement the Palestinian Authority (PA), rather than replace it.

In the security committee, Al-Ahmad said, the Egyptians have taken into account what the factions agreed upon during talks in February. In addition he said new suggestions have come up for the points on which agreement was not initially reached. He declined to elaborate further.

US undermining unity deal

Meanwhile, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported a US communication with Egypt saying the country does not support its current proposal for Palestinian unity, believing that it would undermine a push to renew peace talks with Israel.

The newspaper said that in a meeting in Cairo on Saturday night, US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell told Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the official in charge of the Hamas-Fatah talks, that the US will not support any agreement not in compliance with the so-called Quartet conditions.

Mitchell's reported statements would be consistent with past US policy under Presidents Bush and Obama. The international Quartet (the US, EU, UN, and Russia) conditions stipulate that if it is to be dealt with by the international community, any Palestinian government must recognize Israel and renounce armed struggle.
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