Abbas, rival Meshaal to meet in Cairo
CAIRO - Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Hamas exiled chief Khaled Meshaal are to meet Wednesday in Cairo over a stalled reconciliation deal and separately hold talks with Egypt's Mohamed Morsi, officials said.
The Egyptian president will first meet with Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and then with Meshaal, who heads the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, officials said.
The two Palestinians will then sit down together to discuss the implementation of a unity agreement reached in April 2011 which was aimed at ending years of infighting between their rival factions.
An official at the presidency had said Morsi would hold a three-way meeting with Meshaal and Abbas, but clarified on Wednesday that he would meet them separately.
Years of bitter rivalry between the two Palestinian national movements exploded into violence in June 2007 when Hamas forces seized control of Gaza a year after they won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.
Under Egyptian mediation, the two factions inked a unity agreement in May 2011, but the main provisions of that deal have yet to be implemented.
Fatah's lead negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said that Abbas would discuss with Morsi his party's relations with Egypt, which has boosted support for Gaza since the Islamist was elected president in June, as well as Arab support for Abbas in stalled peace talks with Israel.
Abbas and Meshaal would then discuss "ways to revive efforts at reconciliation," he said.
Meshaal met Abbas in Cairo in February 2012, but there has been little progress towards ending the crippling divide between their movements.
And even as the two were to meet on Wednesday, there was no let up in the recriminations.
"Egypt's invitation does not necessarily mean this meeting will lead to a serious start of implementing" the agreement, said Yousef Rizq, political adviser to Hamas's prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya.
"Abbas's insistence on holding elections first affects the atmosphere of the meeting," he said, stressing that all the provisions in the agreement should go into effect simultaneously.
But Ahmed said Abbas wanted the election committee to resume its work, "and after the committee ends its work, and there is a consensus government, then there will be elections."
He said a senior Hamas official had told him the reconciliation deal should be implemented after the Islamist movement "reorders it house" -- in an allusion to possible elections for a new leadership for the Islamist group.
Egyptian officials have said that a reconciliation agreement that would allow Hamas representation in the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, historically headed by Fatah, and the formation of a unity government, are opposed by Washington.
The United States, along with other Western countries and Israel, say Hamas must renounce violence and recognise Israel.
Hamas is officially sworn to Israel's destruction but says it could accept a Palestinian state on the basis of the lines which existed before the 1967 Six Day War during which the Jewish state captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.