London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Palestinian source informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Fatah and Hamas movements, in the conclusion of a meeting held between them in Damascus the night before last, have agreed to hold a meeting as early as October, to discuss the fourth point of contention which impedes Hamas’s signing of the Egyptian reconciliation document.
Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the points agreed upon at the meeting were: the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, the Elections Committee and the Electoral Tribunal. They agreed to discuss a fourth point, a security issue, in a forthcoming meeting where security experts and specialists from both sides will be present.
Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that if the parties managed to agree upon the final point, then Hamas would travel to Cairo to sign a document, already signed by Fatah last November. The points agreed upon will form part of the paper of ‘Palestinian-Palestinian understandings’, after it has been presented to other groups.
Khaled Mishal, political leader of Hamas, led his party’s delegation at the meeting, which was also attended by his deputy, Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, and other party members including Izzat al-Rishq and Mohammed Nasr. Meanwhile, the Fatah delegation was led by Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and its Commissioner for National Relations. The Fatah delegation also included Sakher Bseiso, a member of the Central Committee, and Samir Rifai, member of the Revolutionary Council and Fatah’s secretary in Syria.
Although the meeting did not conclude with a press conference, as is usual practice, a joint statement was issued, confirming that there had been understanding and agreement upon many points of contention surrounding the Egyptian reconciliation document.
This was followed by a statement issued by Abu Marzouk, stating that “The meeting was held in an amicable, brotherly atmosphere, with a sincere desire from both parties to end the division. Both a path, and steps, were agreed upon to move towards reconciliation”.
The statement said that “The points of contention included in the reconciliation document, prepared by Egypt, have been reviewed, in light of comprehensive Palestinian national dialogue, and bilateral dialogue, between Fatah and Hamas. A lot of these points were understood and agreed upon, and it has also been agreed that a meeting will be held soon to ensure an understanding regarding the rest of the points [of contention], and reach a final version of these ‘Palestinian understandings’, agreed upon by all Palestinian factions and forces”.
The statement clarified that “after that, [the Hamas delegation] will move to Cairo to sign the reconciliation paper. These understandings will be recognized as binding, and an integral part of implementing the reconciliation paper, and ending the state of division”.
The Palestinian Information Center, on its website, has attributed quotes to what it describes as high level Egyptian sources, albeit unnamed, saying that the release of a Hamas security leader, Mohammed Debabeche, three days previously, and the release of Muhammad Naeem, son of the Palestinian Minister of Health, the day before, were the result of communication efforts, exerted by Hamas leaders, to initiate preliminary procedures for reconciliation.
The sources said that “the release process of the Palestinian prisoners in Egypt was conducted via a specific framework and sequential format, in accordance with an agreement between the leadership of Hamas and Egyptian officials in Saudi Arabia”.
They indicated that the release of Debabeche and Naeem came as a result of the communications and the meeting between Mishal and Minister Suleiman. Furthermore, they clarified that the release plan would be conducted within the framework of both the reconciliation meetings, and the signing of the Egyptian [reconciliation] document, in parallel.
The Egyptian sources state that the Hamas leadership [during the meeting with Egyptian officials] focused on the issue of detainees, and the extent of their significance in the relationship between Egypt and Hamas. However, Egyptian officials believe that the release of some [Hamas] detainees in Egyptian prisons will be delayed, due to the “sensitivities of their positions”.
The sources also confirmed that a meeting is expected in Cairo between a delegation from the Hamas leadership, and Egyptian officials.