The rival Hamas and Fatah groups have been pursuing negotiations behind closed door in an Arab country to find a common group and work out their widening differences, a high-level source has told IslamOnline.net.
"President Mahmoud Abbas wanted the talks to remain secret because Israel and the US condition peace negotiations and the upcoming peace conference on shunning Hamas," added the source, requesting anonymity.
He said Abbas had dispatched a high-level envoy to an Arab country to directly engage with a Hamas delegation to find common grounds and reunite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The two main regions of the occupied Palestinian territories have been separated and ruled by two different administrations since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in mid-June.
Abbas had sacked the Hamas-led national unity government of Ismail Haniya and appointed a caretaker cabinet led by West-favored economist Salam Fayyad.
Haniya has defied the dismissal and continue to operate along with his sacked government in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas has repeatedly said he firmly opposes any dialogue with Hamas until it returns the Gaza Strip to his authority.
The Hamas-Fatah talks are been held without the intervention of the host Arab country, said the source, declining to name the country in question.
"Abbas's envoy s talking directing to the Hamas delegation to hammer out a satisfactory agreement to both sides to end their feuding differences."
The source said the talks were different from meetings reported by the media between lawmakers from both groups.
"The talks involve high-level figures from the Hamas leadership abroad and are shrouded in secrecy at the request of Abbas."
According to the source, Abbas has come to the conclusion that his routine meetings with Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert are producing no results.
Olmert on Sunday doused expectations ahead of the US-sponsored peace conference, saying Israel and the Palestinians are working on a joint declaration rather than an accord of principles.
He spoke two days before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to arrive in the region on her latest mission to prepare for the meeting.
The high-level source noted that Saudi Arabia has played a major role in pushing Abbas to talks with Hamas.
He cited a series of public and behind-curtain contacts between Saudi officials and Fatah and Hamas leaders.
In a recent phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Haniya reiterated readiness to meet Abbas in Saudi Arabia to try and resolve the crisis.
Days later, Abbas paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia and held talks with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and other Saudi officials.
"The visit came at the request of Riyadh," said the source.
"Saudi Arabia tried to convince Abbas to engage in talks with Hamas and not to build high hopes on the US-sponsored meeting," he added.
"Under Saudi pressures, Abbas finally agreed to the talks but insisted on keeping them behind closed doors until the end of the year."
Heavyweight Saudi Arabia played a pivotal role in ending feuding fighting between Fatah and Hamas last year.
A Makkah agreement last February led to a short-lived unity government grouping both rival groups.
Last Mod: 17 Eylül 2007, 12:00