Agence France Presse (AFP)
October 20, 2008 - 8:00pm

Egypt has invited Hamas and Fatah to meet in Cairo on November 9 for talks aimed at restoring Palestinian unity, Hamas said Monday. "We received yesterday a draft of the Egyptian vision for Palestinian reconciliation which includes a call for a full Palestinian dialogue," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP. "Hamas has no problem in attending and we were the first to call for Palestinian-Palestinian talks to end the internal conflict," he added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, told journalists Sunday that all Palestinian factions had been invited to meet in Cairo on November 9 but did not say whether Fatah would attend the talks, local media reported.

The two main Palestinian parties have been bitterly divided since Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after driving Abbas' security forces out of the territory in a week of bloody street battles. The conflict has intensified in recent weeks as the two factions have differed over when Abbas's presidential term ends.

Hamas has said that Abbas - who was elected in January 2005 - would cease to be president when his constitutionally mandated four-year term ends in January and that new presidential elections will have to be held.

Abbas loyalists, citing a separate clause in the constitution, say that presidential and parliamentary elections must be held at the same time, which would extend his term to 2010.

Abbas has called for the establishment of a politically independent national unity government to pave the way for elections to be held at an agreed upon time, a position reflected in a copy of the Egyptian plan obtained by AFP. The plan calls for "the establishment of a national consensus government" that would lift the international blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and prepare for presidential and parliamentary polls.

The plan also calls for the rehabilitation of independent security forces with assistance from Arab states and the incorporation of Hamas and the hard-line Islamic Jihad into Abbas' Palestine Liberation Organization, which is responsible for negotiations with Israel.

Israel and the West have embraced Abbas as a partner in US-backed peace negotiations relaunched in November 2007 but continue to blacklist Hamas as a terror group despite its victory in 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. The EU and the US have joined Israel in boycotting Palestinian governments that include Hamas, raising fears that full Palestinian reconciliation could lead to renewed international sanctions.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017