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Fatah: Abbas awaiting Hamas response

March 28, 2011 12:44 P.M. (Updated: March 29, 2011 12:14 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- There has yet to be a response from Hamas following a meeting between party members and President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, Fatah central committee member Nabil Sha'ath told Ma'an.

Despite the positive sentiments exchanged, "Abbas is still waiting for the official response," Sha'ath said Monday.

Abbas, who leads the Fatah party, met with senior Hamas officials to discuss a proposed trip to Gaza and efforts to mend internal Palestinian division by forming a unity government.

Mass protests by Palestinian youth, which began on 14 March, demanded that leaders make real steps toward unity, prompting Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to invite Abbas to the Gaza Strip unity talks.

On 16 March, Abbas said he would accept the invitation, but that he would only go to Gaza to sign an agreement, not to discuss one. Hamas officials said the suggestion amounted to impossible preconditions, adding that real discussions were necessary to ensure an enduring agreement.

The president's meeting with a Hamas delegation Saturday was said to have been positive by both parties, but neither side elaborated.

On Monday, Sha'ath praised the meeting and said Abbas would consider entering Gaza through the Rafah crossing in Egypt, if Israel refused to allow him access via the Erez crossing.

Israel's prime minister has said that Abbas must choose between unity with Hamas and peace with Israel, and condemned the reunification of the Palestinian political sphere.

Since 2007, Hamas has run the government in the Gaza Strip, while the West Bank government has been controlled by Fatah. In 2006 Hamas won democratic legislative elections, but the party was boycotted by the international community. Without international support the government folded, resulting in the creation of a unity government in early 2007, which collapsed amid infighting which neared civil war.
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