Fatah, Hamas reportedly make progress in reconciliation

Hamas and Fatah reached a tentative agreement to push ahead with new elections and a mechanism for manning the Gaza border with Egypt after two days of reconciliation talks.

The negotiators, who have been meeting in Doha since Sunday, said they have reached agreement on a “limited practical perception” as to how to solve their dispute and implement previous reconciliation accords signed between the two sides.

The sides pledged to form a national unity government, to lay the groundwork for long-overdue presidential and legislative elections, and to renew their commitment to earlier accords which were signed but not implemented, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

The two sides also agreed that Fatah’s Presidential Guard would take charge of the Rafah crossing in Gaza, with Hamas staff continuing to work there too.

The draft must now be taken to the leadership of the two rival Palestinian factions for approval.

The negotiators said the talks were held in a “positive and brotherly atmosphere.”

However, Fatah and Hamas officials in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip voiced skepticism regarding the prospects of ending their dispute.

They said that despite the agreement reached in Doha, the gap between the parties remained as wide as ever.

A senior Fatah official told reporters in Ramallah that the Doha talks have actually failed due to Hamas’s refusal to change its stance on a number of important issues. He said the main obstacle remains Hamas’s refusal to accept the formation of a unity government on the basis of the PLO’s political program, which accepts a two-state solution and calls for a negotiated settlement with Israel.

Palestinian sources said Hamas also rejected Fatah’s offer to retain control over major portfolios such as the finance, foreign affairs and security ministries.

Hamas spokesman Salah Bardaweel criticized the PA government, as “illegitimate.”

In reaction to the PA government’s announcement that it was prepared to submit its resignation, Bardaweel said: “This government was not approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council. It has no legitimacy.”