Rival Palestinian factions to meet in Gaza week before peace talk deadline
Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah met Tuesday in an effort to "reconcile their rival leaderships" as peace talks with Israel continue to deteriorate, according to Agence France Presse.
The West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which is headed by Fatah party leader and president Mahmoud Abbas, sent a delegation to Gaza City to meet with rival counterpart, Hamas.
The meeting between the two rival factions is part of an ongoing effort to "revive long-stagnant unity efforts," and arrives a mere week before the April 29 deadline for U.S. brokered Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
The PLO delegation, headed by one of the main Fatah party leaders, Azam Al Ahmed, met with the prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya. Another major Hamas leader, Mussa Abu Marzuq, was also allegedly present.
According to one member of the delegation, the two sides were set to discuss "forming a national consensus government and holding elections" along with other issues.
Ahead of the meeting, the PLO delegation also "played down" rumors that the West Bank-based Palestinian authority would be dismantled if the peace talks with Israel remained in deadlock.
"No Palestinian is speaking of an initiative to dismantle the Palestinian Authority. But Israel's actions have annulled all the legal, political, security, economic and operational aspects of the prerogatives of the Palestinian Authority," chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said on Tuesday.
Erakat's comments follow a senior Palestinian official's statement Sunday that hinted that Palestinian negotiators may hand responsibility for governing the occupied territories back to Israel if Tel Aviv fails to hand over the last group of Palestinian prisoners and continues settlement construction.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of "endangering the peace process" with such commentary.
"The Palestinian Authority, which yesterday was talking about its dismantlement, is today talking about unity with Hamas [which fiercely opposes any peace talks with Israel]. They need to decide... Do they want to dismantle themselves or to unite with Hamas? When they want peace (with Israel), they should let us know," Netanyahu said.