GAZA CITY (AFP) – Hamas on Tuesday gave its tentative support to an Egyptian plan to reconcile the Islamist movement and the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
“We will agree to the draft of the agreement and will not reject it,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP, but he added that the plan would require some “modification” before it could be implemented.
“The draft contains positive elements, but also has some points that need modification and some points that need clarification from the Egyptian leadership.”
The two main Palestinian movements have been bitterly divided since Hamas drove Abbas’s security forces from the Gaza Strip in a week of fierce street clashes in June 2007, cleaving the territories into hostile rival camps.
Representatives from both sides have been invited to meet in Cairo on November 9 to discuss the Egyptian plan, which is aimed at restoring unity and resolving a looming constitutional crisis that threatens to deepen the internal rift.
Hamas has said Abbas — who was elected in January 2005 — will cease to be president when his constitutionally mandated four-year term ends in January and that a new presidential election 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.
Under the Egyptian plan — to which Abbas has yet to formally agree — a “national consensus government” would be formed in a bid to lift the international blockade of Gaza and prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections.
The plan also calls for the rehabilitation of independent Palestinian security forces with assistance from Arab states and the incorporation of Hamas and the hardline Islamic Jihad into the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) headed by Abbas, 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.
In the past the European Union and the United States have joined Israel in boycotting Palestinian governments that include Hamas, raising fears that full Palestinian reconciliation could lead to renewed international sanctions.
Hamas and Fatah signed a Yemen-brokered agreement in March that was aimed at returning Gaza to Abbas’s control but the initiative dissolved within days as the two groups differed over its meaning.
Hamas had viewed the plan as providing a framework for national unity talks, while Fatah had viewed its implementation as a precondition for negotiations.