Hamas: Reconciliation talks to resume if Fatah releases prisoners

Other News Materials 21 November 2008 14:24 (UTC +04:00)

A Hamas official said his group will resume reconciliation talks with rival Fatah if that group releases all imprisoned Hamas members, a newspaper reported Friday.

"If (Palestinian President) Abu Mazen released the prisoners and stopped his security measures, talks would start immediately," Mussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, told the Pan- Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, reported dpa.

Reconciliation talks between the two sides have been on hold since Hamas officials notified the Egyptian government, which is hosting the talks, that they would not participate. The meeting had been scheduled to take place in early November.

Relations between the two sides reached their lowest point in 2007 when the Islamist Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip, leaving the Palestinian government, run by the secularist Fatah, in charge of the West Bank.

Although Fatah has released 180 Hamas prisoners, Abu Marzouk said his group still counted 616 members imprisoned by Fatah as of November 12. Abu Marzouk said the continued detention was "provocative" for Hamas members.

Cairo has been mediating the Palestinian issue for months. It has been holding separate meetings with all Palestinian factions to pave the way for a dialogue in a bid to end the current inter-Palestinian crisis.

Following nearly two months of talks, Egypt presented a draft plan in late October.

The Egyptian plan called for establishing a new Palestinian national unity government, rehabilitating the security forces of the Palestinian National Authority, reforming the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and preparing for presidential and legislative elections in the Palestinian territories.

Hamas has welcomed the Egyptian paper, but with some reservations. Abu Marzouk said the group's reservations were not "conditions, but basic and necessary requirements for the dialogue." His group demanded concrete measures to stop the ongoing arrests of its members.

Abu Marzouk also said it was important to guarantee Hamas' participation in the Cairo dialogue. He also said attendance at the summit by Mazen, also known as Mahmoud Abbas, was among the 'basic requirements.

"We also demanded that the Egyptian side should stand at equal distance from both sides," he added.