Abbas, Meshaal hold first talks since unity deal

Abbas, Meshaal hold first talks since unity deal

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas began talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Doha Monday in the first meeting since their rival movements signed a surprise unity deal, an official said.

"The meeting has started," a source in Abbas's Ramallah office told AFP shortly after 0900 GMT.

The Palestinian leader flew to the Qatari capital on Sunday to meet emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani early Monday before attending a family wedding, the senior Palestinian official told AFP.

He then met the exiled Hamas leader, who has been based in Doha for more than two years after leaving his previous base in Damascus because of the bloodshed gripping Syria, Al Arabiya reported.

The last time the two leaders met face-to-face was in Cairo in January 2013.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said at the weekend that the two leaders were expected to meet in Qatar to "discuss the reconciliation agreement and how to implement it".

Abbas's Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organisation and rules the West Bank, has been locked in years of bitter rivalry with Meshaal's Hamas since the Islamist movement forcibly took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, ousting forces loyal to the president.

Earlier efforts to broker a political reconciliation have failed, but on April 23, the PLO and Hamas announced they had reached a deal under which they would work together to form a new government of political independents.

Hamas said it might incorporate some 3,000 members of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority's security forces to help policing in Gaza on a temporary basis.

"There is a clause addressing the security situation, including... administrative arrangements for 3,000 members of Ramallah's security apparatus to work as part of Gaza security," Hamas government secretary Abdel Salam Siyyam said in a statement on Sunday.

He said the move would be for an "interim period", without saying how long it would be.

News of the April deal provoked an angry response from Israel, which said it would not negotiate with any Palestinian government backed by Hamas, putting the final nail in the coffin of the latest round of US-brokered peace talks.

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