JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction has rejected a request by Hamas rivals to meet separately ahead of multi-factional reconciliation talks next month in Cairo, Fatah officials said Tuesday.
“Hamas has tried to change the Egyptian plan by requesting a bilateral meeting with Fatah which excludes the other 11 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions,” a senior Fatah official told Reuters by telephone from Amman.
“We adhere to the Egyptian plan which calls for a meeting of all the factions,” the official said. “We don’t object to holding a bilateral meeting with Hamas after the comprehensive meeting taking place.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Fatah’s decision not to hold bilateral talks with the Islamist Hamas was a blow to Egypt’s efforts to broker a unity deal between the rival groups.
“Fatah bears responsibility for any faltering of Arab efforts to reconcile the Palestinian factions,” Abu Zuhri said.
Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has held a series of separate talks with all Palestinian factions to heal the rift between Hamas and the PLO since the Islamists seized Gaza last year.
Abbas has not sanctioned any meeting between his Fatah group and Hamas and has insisted that such meetings would only take place after Hamas cedes control of Gaza, officials said.
Palestinian officials said 12 Palestinian groups, including Fatah, have approved a reconciliation plan drawn up by Egypt.
They said the plan calls for ending Hamas’ control over Gaza by forming a transitional government of technocrats that would prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections, and for Arab forces to help rebuild Gaza’s security forces.
Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said Fatah sent its response to Hamas’ request to meet to Egypt Tuesday.
“There is no need for bilateral meetings now. We prefer the meetings to be comprehensive and for Egypt to pursue its consultations with the factions. We don’t object to the formation of committees if they are formed of all the factions and are not confined to Fatah and Hamas,” al-Ahmad told Reuters.
In June, Abbas called for a comprehensive national dialogue to end the schism between the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway, and Hamas-run Gaza. Hamas said it would not recognize Abbas as a legitimate president after his term ends on January 9.