Abbas holds rare meeting with Hamas leaders in Qatar

The Palestinian Authority (PA) President met with Hamas’s two most senior leaders to discuss steps towards reconciliation between Hamas and his Fatah party in Qatar yesterday.

The meeting, which was described as a “business lunch,” was attended by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’s political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal and Hamas’s leader in Gaza Ismael Haniyeh, who is expected to soon succeed Mashaal. The meeting was hosted by the Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, with Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat and Palestinian envoy to Qatar Munir Ghanam also in attendance.

According to the PA’s official news agency Wafa, the two sides agreed that “reconciliation is the main pathway to protecting the Palestinian national project and to counter the Israeli government plots aimed at destroying the two-state option”.

Abbas was quoted as saying that the Palestinians “must achieve Palestinian national reconciliation, and remove the causes of division through the formation of a national unity government and elections must be held”.

Meanwhile, a Hamas statement said that it was prepared to meet any officials from Fatah and other Palestinian factions if such contacts were “suitable for the success of reconciliation and ending the division”.

However, a report in YNet suggests that Abbas attended the meeting only under pressure from the Qatari government.

Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007 and relations between the two have been bitter ever since, with Hamas in exclusive control of Gaza and the Fatah-dominated PA administering the Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Reconciliation and unity agreements between the two factions have since been agreed but never fully implemented and the two have not shared power.

The PA recently postponed municipal elections in which both Fatah and Hamas were to field candidates. It was set to have been the first time that Hamas and Fatah had contested an election since 2006, when Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

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