Egypt says Palestinian rivals agree to enact unity deal
CAIRO/GAZA (Reuters) - An Egyptian official said the leaders of the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions had agreed at talks in Cairo on Wednesday to implement a long-delayed reconciliation pact, although it was unclear if the deal would extend beyond holding more talks.
President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah movement based in the West Bank and Khaled Meshaal of the Islamist Hamas group that controls the Gaza Strip met face-to-face for the first time in over a year to discuss how to implement their 2011 deal.
The rivals fell out badly when Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah by force in 2007. But they have drawn closer since Israel's assault on Gaza in November, in which Hamas claimed victory, and a diplomatic win by Abbas the same month in which the United Nations voted to recognize Palestine as a "non-member state".
"It was agreed that sides would begin immediately to implement the previously agreed mechanism of the agreement signed," a senior Egyptian official involved in the talks, who declined to be named, told Reuters by phone from Cairo.
Nabil Abu Rdaineh, a senior aide to Abbas, said the president had held a lengthy meeting with Meshaal in a "positive atmosphere". He said there was an agreement to hold more meetings, but declined to give details. No comment was immediately available from Hamas.
The two sides have signally failed to put into practice the deal they signed in Cairo in May 2011 to reunify the leadership of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
The Egyptian official said discussions to find ways to do so had been held in a "positive spirit", and that the rival factions would meet again in the first week of February to work out a timetable.
Egyptian mediators had hoped to coax Abbas and Meshaal into a meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, but in the event they met without Mursi. Abbas is reluctant to accept any format that would imply giving the Hamas leader a status equivalent to his own.
COMPETING APPROACHES Continued...