Palestinian talks in Yemen seen stalled

SANAA (Reuters) – Reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas appeared to have stalled on Saturday, as the two sides wrangled over proposals about the future of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Under a draft agreement from the Yemen-sponsored talks, Hamas and Fatah would have agreed to hold negotiations in early April about a Yemeni plan calling for the situation in the Gaza Strip to return to the way it was before Hamas took it over.

A Hamas official said the group asked that the same should apply to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has dismissed a Hamas-led government and arrested some Hamas supporters.

“We believe that what happened in Gaza is connected to events in the West Bank … We need to remedy the situation in the whole of the Palestinian scene,” top Hamas negotiator Moussa Abu Marzouk told Al Jazeera television from Sanaa.

But senior Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed rejected the Hamas demand to include the West Bank. “Nothing has changed in the West Bank … We accept this (Yemeni) proposal without changing a word of it,” he told the television.

Yemeni mediators will meet both delegations again on Sunday, a Yemeni official said. A Hamas official confirmed the group’s team would meet Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in a last-ditch effort to salvage the talks.

The issue of the future of Gaza has been a main point of contention, with Fatah demanding that Hamas Islamists give up control of the territory, which the group seized in June after routing Fatah forces.

A Hamas official said: “The main stumbling block is Fatah’s insistence that Hamas cease its control of the Gaza Strip.”

The plan also envisages Palestinian elections, the creation of another unity government and a rebuilding of Palestinian security forces along national rather than factional lines.

Fatah has said it would agree to direct reconciliation talks with Hamas only if Hamas first consented to relinquish its hold on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

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