Palestinian factions defer issues in Cairo unity talks
The first round of intensive reconciliation talks between the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions ended in Cairo on Tuesday, as negotiators agreed to refer outstanding issues to a higher committee, participants said, dpa reported.
Yasser al-Wadia, an independent academic taking part in the talks, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that "a number of outstanding cases had been settled," and that the independent participants had returned to Gaza from Cairo.
"We are closer than ever to reach a reconciliation ending this black era of the Palestinian history," he said, referring to the political split between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Fatah- dominated West Bank that occurred in 2007.
A previous Palestinian unity government collapsed in June 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. The Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas retained control of the West Bank, and remained the only negotiating partner accepted by Israel and the West.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum on Tuesday said that remaining controversial issues had been referred to a higher committee for further discussion.
"Only the higher coordination committee, which is made up of the leaders of the factions' delegations and Egyptian mediators, remained in Cairo to discuss the remaining files," Barhoum said.
The Cairo dialogue aimed at creating a united government, reforming the internal security services, reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and holding parliamentary and presidential elections to boost the reconciliation.
The talks had formed separate committees to settle each issue.
Remaining issues yet to be settled are believed to include the recognition by Hamas of previous agreements made by the PLO, which could be seen as recognition of Israel.
However the factions agreed to hold elections by January 2010 and also agreed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas forms a central elections committee according to the law.
However, Barhoum said the formation of that committee "must be done according to consultations and coordination with the political powers, national faces and the awaited national government."
Abbas' term as a president ended at the beginning of this year while the term of the Hamas-dominated parliament ends in January next year.
In Cairo, the factions agreed that the elections to appoint a president and a new parliament be held at the same time. In addition, they also agreed to hold elections for the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the PLO.
Meanwhile, Egyptian intelligence head Omar Suleiman was in Washington on Tuesday to discuss Palestinian reconciliation with US officials, Egyptian foreign ministry sources said.