World Bulletin/News Desk
Representatives from Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas would meet Sunday and Monday to discuss steps towards reconciliation and pave the way for forming a consensual cabinet and holding general elections, Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya said Sunday.
Al-Hayya's announcement came in a joint press conference with Fatah leader Nabil Shaath following a meeting between both groups' delegations earlier Sunday in the residence of Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City.
"The two delegations are in accord about the essential components of national reconciliation plan," Shaath said, stressing that the two groups have agreed on "partnership to pave the way for forming a cabinet and holding elections."
"Fatah movement will not accept that a Palestinian state be established without the Gaza Strip or with a separate state in Gaza," Shaath added.
"The movement is concerned over the tragic conditions in Gaza as a result of the years-long [Israeli] blockade."
During Sunday's meeting with the Fatah delegation, Haniyeh said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas needs to "take serious steps to provide a positive climate for reconciliation."
"Hamas cannot tolerate the direct targeting of its members in the West Bank," Haniyeh was quoted as saying by Gaza's official news agency Al-Rai. "[Fatah's] pursuit of Hamas members as well as [its] collaboration with the occupation forces poses a pressure on Hamas's decision-makers regarding reconciliation."
As part of an earlier goodwill gesture announced by the Gaza premier, he reportedly handed the visiting delegation a list of Fatah members who are permitted to return to the strip after they fled in the wake of Hamas' takeover in 2007 conflict between the two factions -
Last month, Haniyeh announced that 2014 would be "the year of Palestinian reconciliation," declaring that all Fatah members who had fled the Gaza Strip in 2007 – when Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave – were welcome to return except those charged with wrongdoing.
In 2007, Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip routed troops loyal to Fatah and Abbas and seized control of the territory.
Continued conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the latter of which holds the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, obliged Hamas to set up its own government in Gaza, while Fatah did the same in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
In 2011, the two factions hammered out a reconciliation deal under Egyptian sponsorship. The following year, the two sides agreed to form a unity government headed up by Abbas to pave the way for parliamentary polls.
The terms of the agreement, however, were never implemented.
Despite their vast differences, particularly over the thorny issue of peace talks with Israel, both governments maintain considerable coordination, especially in the education and health sectors.
Mahmoud Abbas last year reduced salaries of 60,000 Gaza-based Palestinian Authority employees
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