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Factions warn of 'last chance' ahead of unity talks

Dec. 16, 2011 3:03 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 17, 2011 7:04 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian political groups have called their upcoming meeting in Cairo the last chance for implementation of a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas.

Seven months after the agreement was signed in the Egyptian capital, the factions say nothing has moved on the ground to implement the terms of the deal that would end four years of divided government in Gaza and the West Bank.

A series of meetings in the coming week are the latest effort to move the deal forward, after Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal and Fatah leader president Mahmoud Abbas met in Cairo on Nov. 24 for the first time since signing the accord, and said they had resolved all differences between them.

Fatah and Hamas leaders will meet on Sunday, and other political parties will join the Egypt-brokered talks on Tuesday. An broad leadership body tasked with reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization will hold its first meeting on Thursday.

But factions heading to Cairo on Monday stressed that this could be the last opportunity for the deal to end the division and set the path to national elections.

The delegations in Cairo this week are funding their own expenses for the first time, Ma'an has learned, begging the question of whether Egypt's sponsorship of the talks could founder if they drag on further.

Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Nafeth Azzam told Ma'an that Fatah and Hamas "do not need pressure -- they need to be convinced to end this division."

"We are going to Cairo to send a message of hope to our people despite all the difficulties, and to activate the points that were agreed upon seven months ago," he added.

Saleh Nasser, a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine political bureau, said Tuesday's meeting would be an opportunity to collectively discuss the terms of the deal, as bilateral talks held by each of the factions did not produce results.

Factions met separately with Egyptian officials in Cairo last week to discuss implementation of the reconciliation deal.

DFLP has proposed the formation of a national committee to discuss all outstanding issues, he said.

Palestinian People’s Party member Walid Al-Awad said he did not expect a new unity government to be formed, but said practical steps must be taken, including the immediate activation of a committee to prepare for national elections.

"We hope that the Cairo meeting will be the last, even though a lot of issues have not been implemented and revolve in a vicious circle," he told Ma'an.

Leader of political independents Yasser Al-Wadiyeh said Tuesday will be the last chance for reconciliation.

"We are going not for open discussions but to find mechanisms of implementation," he said, noting that factions have already met together and with Egypt previously.

The Palestinian situation is intolerable and practical steps must be taken, the independent leader said, adding that a unity government was necessary to break the impasse.

But Palestinian Popular Struggle Front’s politburo member Mahmud Az-Ziq sounded a more positive note on the process.

The rounds of dialogue do not mean a return to square one, but aim develop practical mechanisms to implement the deal, he said.
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