A leader of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group travelled to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Wednesday for talks with the Islamist rival faction on an Egyptian-proposed reconciliation deal.
The trip by senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath followed a signal last week from Hamas that it was willing to agree on new Palestinian elections and possible power-sharing.
Delegations from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party and the Islamist Hamas movement that controls Gaza held several rounds of unity talks under Egyptian mediation.
Hamas won a parliamentary election in January 2006, ending a near-monopoly on power by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its dominant faction, Fatah. The government Hamas formed was subject to a crippling boycott by Western aid donors, leading to a unity government between Hamas and Fatah in 2007.
"I have come here backed by my movement Fatah to try to end the boycott (by Hamas)," Shaath told reporters after arriving in Gaza.
The factions last met in July in Cairo. Since then, Egypt has applied pressure on Hamas by erecting a wall along the southern Gaza border to block tunnels.
Gaza economy is dependent on the tunnels, increasingly under attack by both Israeli and Egyptian forces. Tens have been killed in the underground system over the past months, and dozens more over the nearly three years of Gaza siege. The industry remains, however, the only growing work opportunity in Gaza.
Hamas said initial discussions with Shaath had not yielded results, but it voiced hope for progress.
"Further meetings will address all issues, the internal Palestinian situation, confidence-building measures and ways to achieve national reconciliation. We hope to achieve the results we aspire to," Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya told Reuters.
Abbas dissolved that alliance after Hamas's Gaza takeover, which was triggered by factional tensions in the armed forces.
Central to the reconciliation talks are proposed elections in June. Hamas wants an Egyptian guarantee that the ballot's results will be respected.
Fatah officials hope to make a strong showing in their vote thanks to the relative prosperity of Palestinians in the West Bank, where Israel has eased restrictions on movement and commerce. Under embargo, Gaza has sunk into deep poverty.
ReutersLast Mod: 04 Şubat 2010, 08:35