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Hamas to meet Fatah in Damascus

Nov. 1, 2010 11:47 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 2, 2010 10:31 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas leader Ismail Radwan said Monday that the next round of unity talks with Fatah would be held in Damascus on 11 November, a Hamas media site said.

Radwan would lead the delegation, and the rival factions would discuss security, the final point of contention on an Egyptian-backed unity deal, the report said.

"We hope this meeting will lead to unity and national reconciliation," Radwan added.

Negotiations to reconcile the parties came to a sudden halt in October when Fatah pulled out of scheduled talks in the Syrian capital after President Bashar Al-Assad criticized the Ramallah government.

President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that Fatah was exerting every effort to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Speaking in Ramallah after a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Abbas said Egypt would follow up on the implementation of its unity proposal as soon as Hamas ratified the paper. Fatah signed the agreement in 2009.

Egypt began mediating a deal soon after the factions split following Hamas' takeover of Gaza in 2007, in violence that nearly led to civil war. Abbas dissolved the unity government in 2007 formed after general elections a year earlier.

Hamas refused to sign the Egyptian paper requesting several amendments to the deal.

At the last meeting in Damascus both parties said they reached a consensus on three of four disputed points -- the formation and decisions of the PLO's leadership, the structure of the Central Elections Committee and the establishment of an elections court.

While security was discussed, no agreement was reached. Both factions have expressed concern over the structure and jurisdiction of their respective security forces under a new deal, and mechanisms by which they would be unified under one body.

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