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Egypt envoy: Palestinian factions eager to reconcile

Nov. 26, 2012 8:13 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 27, 2012 7:22 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- All Palestinian factions are eager to finalize national reconciliation quickly, Egypt's ambassador to the Palestinian Authority said Monday.

Yasser Othman told Ma'an that Palestinian unity was a priority for Egypt and that "Cairo has felt willingness from all factions to move forward to implement the reconciliation."

Israel's war on Gaza gave political impetus to ending the Palestinian division. After the ceasefire, Hamas and Fatah announced they would release all prisoners detained for factional reasons.

PLO official Nabil Shaath, who visited Gaza during the war, said that Hamas party representatives in the West Bank would begin to participate in high-level political meetings, including sessions of the executive committee of the PLO.

Meanwhile, Egypt is consulting separately with Israeli and Palestinian representatives to move forward with the ceasefire, agreed Wednesday to end eight days of fighting in Gaza.

The first stage of the truce demanded both sides to end hostilities, and current talks are focusing on implementing the principles of the ceasefire, including facilitating the opening of border crossings, the Egyptian ambassador told Ma'an.

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into force last Wednesday, ending hostilities between the two sides that cost the lives of 171 Palestinians and six Israelis.

However, the text of the truce stipulated that issues such as access to the borders, free movement for Gazans and the transfer of goods would be dealt with "after 24 hours".

Israel imposed restrictions on Gaza in 2006. The curbs were tightened, and backed by Egypt, after Hamas took control of the enclave after winning elections a year earlier.

Some of the import and export limits have since been eased, but Israel still prevents a long list of goods into the territory -- including many items needed for construction -- arguing they could be used for the manufacture of weapons.

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar told reporters on Saturday that the group wanted to see the opening of all four goods crossings with Israel that used to operate before 2006.

Only one operates at present, with a second passenger terminal reserved for the handful of Palestinians and foreigners who are allowed in and out of the territory.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told an Austrian newspaper in remarks due for publication on Tuesday that "the most important thing right now is ensuring that there are no illegal deliveries of rockets and weapons to Hamas" and "free access and freedom of movement in Gaza".

Ban thought the Gaza crisis also showed "the status quo is no option" and urged a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stalled since 2010, though Hamas has had no role in those negotiations.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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