Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the exiled chief of the rival Hamas movement failed Sunday night to resolve their differences over forming a unity government.
But Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in a joint statement that they "achieved major progress" during the meeting and hoped to resume talks within two weeks. "There are still points of disagreement, but we will try to resolve them through a national dialogue until we form a national unity government," Mashaal said during a joint news conference with Abbas in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The two sides stressed that recent Palestinian clashes were unacceptable and pledged to exert efforts to avoid political friction. "Palestinian bloodshed was considered totally prohibited, and we must exert all efforts to avoid frictions and internal clashes," Abbas declared.
Both sides confirmed differences remained, without elaborating. A spokesman of Fatah party in the Gaza Strip was optimistic about the meeting, saying Abbas and Mashaal agreed to let an independent run the Interior Ministry. "I think some things were accomplished. Some issues were resolved and others remain problematic. That would need continuation of dialogue here in Gaza and mediation in Damascus," said Abdel Hakim Awad, according to the AP.
He said differences also remained over how the official document laying out the new government would be worded.
The deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, who attended some of late Sunday's talks, said the one sticking point were the conditions under which Abbas would name a new prime minister for the unity government. Despite the lack of agreement, he said the meeting "will send a message to the Palestinian people that the two sides are committed to continue dialogue."
On his part, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said a single meeting between the two sides had not been expected to solve all the problems. "We consider the meeting itself a positive step. It was a good step to seriously build on to form a national unity government," Barhoum said.