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Hamas and Fatah declare start of negotiations

The rival parties are scheduled to meet next week to discuss ending their current dispute; news comes after arrests in West Bank, Gaza Strip.

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Jpost) —  Hamas announced on Sunday that it has reached an agreement with Fatah to hold a meeting next week to discuss ways of ending their dispute.

The announcement came as tensions between the two rival parties continued to mount following the arrest of Hamas and Fatah supporters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Moreover, the war of words between the two sides continues to escalate despite the talk about a possible reconciliation.

Hamas and Fatah representatives were scheduled to meet in Damascus last week in another bid to end the crisis.

However, the meeting was canceled following a heated altercation between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad during the recent Arab summit in Libya.

Abbas’s aides accused Assad of “humiliating” the PA president by accusing him of succumbing to Israeli and American pressure to return to the negotiating table with Israel and abandoning the armed struggle option.

The two sides have yet to agree on the venue of next week’s meeting.

However, Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas legislator and spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said he did not rule out the possibility that the meeting would still be held in the Syrian capital.

Bardaweel denied claims that the political platforms of Hamas and Fatah were identical.

“Fatah leaders should not waste their time searching for similarities in the political platforms of Hamas and Fatah,” he said. “The only thing we could have in common is not recognizing Israel’s existence.”

The Hamas official said that even if his movement accepted a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, it won’t relinquish its claim to historic Palestine, “from the sea to the river.”

Bardaweel was commenting on remarks made by Osama Qawasmeh, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, who claimed over the weekend that Hamas too recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Qawasmeh claimed that Hamas was ready to recognize Israel’s existence if a Palestinian state were to be established in the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.

Azzam Ahmed, head of the Fatah delegation to the talks with Hamas, said that the talks would focus on an Egyptian proposal that was presented to the two parties last year to end the conflict. Ahmed said that Fatah and Hamas have yet to agree on a number of points in the proposal, including holding new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reconstructing the Palestinian security forces and the release of prisoners held by both sides.

The Fatah representative denied that an Israeli or American “veto” was preventing his faction from signing a deal with Hamas. “Fatah’s will is stronger than any American veto,” he said. “That’s why we already accepted the Egyptian reconciliation plan. Also, we won’t allow Israel to intervene in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.”

In a related development, Hamas accused Fatah-controlled security forces in the West Bank of arresting “Islamic scholar” Majed Hassan less than two weeks after he was released from Israeli prison.

Hassan, a resident of Ramallah, served three years in an Israeli prison and was released on October 7. Since then he had been summoned three times for interrogation by different branches of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. On Sunday he was summoned for the third time and arrested in a PA prison in Ramallah.



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