Representatives of rival Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah will hold a meeting next week expected to become a final step towards a long-awaited reconciliation, the Maan news agency reported.
The talks were to take place in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Wednesday, but were cancelled after Fatah, which controls the West Bank, proposed to hold the meeting in another location, accusing Syria of "humiliating" the party at a recent Arab League summit in Libya, RIA Novosti reported.
Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardawil was quoted by the news agency as saying that the place of the meeting would be agreed upon later and that Damascus could still be an option.
Al-Bardawil called on the rival party not to "project their political program on Hamas," but said their program could "come closer" if Fatah agreed not to recognize the Israeli "occupation," and establish a Palestinian state on 1967 borders "while preserving our right in all of Palestine," Maan said.
Senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad was quoted as saying that the next meeting, expected to focus on the outstanding security issue, would be "decisive and final." Following the talks, a date will be set for the ratification of the Egypt-backed reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, he said.
The two largest Palestinian factions split in June 2007, about 18 months after Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006. In the ensuing armed clashes between the two parties, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and pushed the ruling Fatah movement out of the enclave.
In early September 2009, Cairo put forward a new document to reconcile the two factions. Fatah signed the agreement last year, but Hamas has so far been reluctant to follow suit.
The inter-Palestinian rivalry is a major obstacle hampering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Hamas, which has refused to recognize Israel's right to exist and reserves the right to use violence in its struggle to create a Palestinian state, has denounced the direct peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The talks, which resumed in early September after an almost two-year hiatus, are now under threat over the issue of ongoing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.