Palestinian president, Hamas leader iron out disputes over unity deal in Cairo


Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal have settled internal disagreements and approved a unity deal after talks in Cairo on Wednesday, a senior official said.

“The meeting decided to fully implement the reconciliation agreement and the Doha declaration,” Izzat al-Rishq, an aide to Meshaal told the Associated Press.

“It puts an end to the debate and discussions over Hamas’ position concerning the Doha agreement and puts an end to what seemed to be disagreement within Hamas.”

A reconciliation deal has previously been a struggle to implement as the long-time rivals have run separate governments since 2007 - Abbas in the West Bank and the Islamic militant group, Hamas, in Gaza.

Hamas leaders in Gaza had previously objected to relinquishing power to Abbas under the terms of a unity deal.

But earlier on Wednesday, members of Hamas’ leadership said the deal must be implemented in a “thorough and honest” way.

“We stress the need for thorough and honest implementation of the reconciliation agreements of Cairo and Doha to end the division and unify the national front,” they said in a statement after meeting.

A lengthy disagreement about the post of prime minister appeared to have been resolved in early February, when Abbas and Meshaal signed a deal in Qatar that put the president at the head of the interim government.

The government line-up was to have been announced shortly afterwards, but the Doha agreement was met with opposition from Gaza-based members of Hamas, as well as some officials in the Fatah-controlled West Bank.

The Cairo talks come before Abbas and Meshaal are to take part in two rounds of meetings with the leadership of all the Palestinian factions, including Islamic Jihad, on Thursday and Friday.

It remains unclear when the final government line-up will be announced and elections held.

Meanwhile, Rishq noted the venue for the meeting of the 15-member political bureau was Cairo. He said the choice of the Egyptian capital was a sign of the changes in the region.

The Hamas leadership had long been based in Syria, but has been trying to distance itself from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on regime opponents. Hamas retains a presence in Syria, but some of its leaders have relocated, while others have been making more frequent visits to Arab capitals.

And while Syria’s regional isolation increases, that of Hamas has lessened with the political rise of its parent movement, the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, in the wake of the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring. This has made Hamas less dependent on longtime patrons Iran and Syria.