DAMASCUS (AFP) – The Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza said on Tuesday that planned reconciliation talks with the Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas have been postponed at its rival’s request.
“Fatah has asked to be excused from taking part in the meeting which had been due to take place in Damascus tomorrow (Wednesday),” said a Hamas statement released in the Syrian capital where the group has its base in exile.
“Contacts will be made between the two sides to arrange a new date.”
The two held a previous round of talks in Damascus last month, which were described by exiled Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal as “serious”.
But since then, Abbas’s security forces have been arresting militants in the West Bank, prompting an angry response from Hamas military commanders and other armed groups.
“If Palestinian reconciliation is not able to prevent Fatah from taking these aggressive actions against the resistance, then no one will blame us if we target its leaders wherever they are,” Abu Obeida, spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, said earlier this month.
Long-standing divisions between the two factions boiled over in June 2007 when Hamas seized power in Gaza after a week of fierce street battles, confining Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to the occupied West Bank.
Since then, each side has accused the other of arresting and mistreating scores of its supporters, and in recent months Hamas has strongly criticised the Authority’s security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank.
The two movements struggled for months to reach a unity agreement through Egyptian mediation but those efforts came to a halt in October 2009 when Hamas refused to sign an agreement endorsed by Egypt and Fatah.