CAIRO (AP) – Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah began a fifth round of talks Saturday aimed at forming a deal to share power, the latest session in months of fruitless negotiations.
The key stumbling block in the Egyptian-mediated talks remains the political program of a unity government that would be in power until elections are held in January 2010.
The international community says it will only deal with a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel, a concession the Islamic militant Hamas is unwilling to make.
Hamas seized Gaza by force in June 2007, four months after its previous power-sharing deal with President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement collapsed. Each side set up its own government, Hamas in Gaza and Abbas in the West Bank.
The division has complicated Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and hindered the reconstruction of Gaza after Israel’s devastating three-week offensive against the coastal strip’s Hamas rulers in December and January.
Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, the top mediator in the talks, expects to receive a final response to an Egyptian compromise proposal, according to an Egyptian official close to the talks.
Under that proposal, Hamas would stay out of the transitional government, allowing the moderate Abbas to run it. In return, Hamas and other Palestinian factions would become part of an advisory committee that would be given a say in the government’s decisions.
The Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Hamas’ Gaza strongman, Mahmoud Zahar, at the start of Saturday’s session said the group was still studying the Egyptian proposal. He repeated the group’s position that it will not be part of any government program that involves the recognition of the Jewish state.