GAZA (Reuters) -Mediation by Qatar’s foreign minister failed to resolve a row between feuding Palestinian leaders, bringing closer the possibility of fresh elections, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday.
A stalemate between Abbas and the Hamas-led government over forming a unity government has triggered the worst internal fighting in a decade and stirred fears of civil war.
“The differences on the core issues have remained … It does not seem as if we are closer to an agreement,” aide Yasser Abed Rabbo said after overnight talks in Gaza involving Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani.
“This initiative is the last political effort that is being exerted and the opportunity must be seized because the alternative is to hold early elections.”
Abed Rabbo said talks failed because of Hamas’s stance toward Israel, which the group is sworn to destroy.
Hamas says it will never recognize Israel. The group says it will abide by peace agreements that are in the “interests of the Palestinian people.”
Ahmed Youssef, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, said the Islamist movement rejected two points in proposals presented by Sheikh Hamad. This included agreeing to a two-state solution to resolve the conflict with Israel.
“As Islamists we cannot accept this and any proposal that includes this means we’re heading toward a deadlock,” Youssef told Reuters.
Palestinians hope formation of a unity government will lift crippling Western sanctions imposed on the Hamas government for refusing to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by interim peace deals with the Jewish state.
Abbas held two meetings on Monday night with Sheikh Hamad, the second of which spilled over into Tuesday morning.
Sheikh Hamad also spoke with Haniyeh after earlier meeting Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus.
Underscoring tensions, Abbas refused to see Haniyeh, officials said. Government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said efforts were under way to arrange a meeting between the men on Tuesday.
Abbas said the Qatari mediation effort would continue although Sheikh Hamad left Gaza early on Tuesday.
Hamas scored a surprise win over Abbas’s Fatah movement, which seeks a negotiated peace with Israel, in January parliamentary elections.
Fatah argues the president has the right to call early parliamentary elections. Hamas disputes this.
Another possibility is Abbas could call a referendum on holding fresh elections. Either option could worsen tensions and spark renewed fighting between Hamas and Fatah.
Fifteen people have been killed in clashes since talks on a coalition government foundered, the worst internal violence since the start of Palestinian self-rule in 1994.
Palestinian politicians said the Qatari proposals included forming a government of so-called technocrats and convening a meeting between Abbas and Meshaal.
Abbas aides said Meshaal provided Sheikh Hamad with a counter-proposal by Hamas that included no recognition of Israel nor acceptance of a temporary technocrat government.
Haniyeh agreed with those positions, Abbas aides said.
“Abbas was furious and rejected the Hamas paper,” one senior aide said.