CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks between Palestinian groups will take place on Wednesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
Ending divisions between Islamist Hamas and the rival Fatah group of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seen as key to lifting an Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip, enforced since Hamas won a parliamentary election in 2006.
The reconciliation talks were meant to have begun in Egypt on Sunday, but were postponed last week with Hamas blaming Israel’s refusal to agree to a new Gaza truce after its January offensive in the territory to counter cross-border rocket fire.
Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza in June 2007 after a power struggle that turned violent, leaving Abbas with a truncated mandate in the occupied West Bank.
Fatah has mounted roundups of West Bank Hamas activists. Hamas wants them released as part of the rapprochement efforts.
“In order for the dialogue to succeed, serious work must be exerted to release all political prisoners from the Palestinian Authority jails in the West Bank,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, who also confirmed the Feb. 25 date for the talks.
An official from Fatah, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group could order an imminent amnesty for some Hamas prisoners. “Under an understanding with Hamas, there will be releases of many Hamas detainees,” the Fatah official told Reuters.