Thursday, 24 November 2011

Palestinian leaders Abbas and Mashaal meet for national reconciliation talks in Cairo

CAIRO — The long-estranged leaders of the two rival Palestinian political movements held rare talks Thursday in Cairo to try to rescue a power-sharing arrangement that has stalled over who should lead an interim unity government.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Western-backed pragmatist, and Khaled Mashaal, chief of the Islamic militant Hamas, held their first working meeting since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007, leaving Abbas with only the West Bank. Abbas hopes to establish an independent state in both territories.

In May, the two reached an agreement in principle that called for setting up an interim unity government, holding parliamentary and presidential elections within a year and merging rival security forces.

However, talks on carrying out the agreement quickly deadlocked over who should serve as interim prime minister, with Hamas rejecting Abbas’ candidate, West Bank-based Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas official, said all elements of the power-sharing agreement were on the table Thursday. After meeting one-on-one for about 90 minutes, the leaders were joined by their delegations, Barhoum said. more