Last updated: 15 November, 2011

Abbas and Hamas leader to meet in Cairo

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal will meet in Cairo on November 25, a day later than originally announced, for new reconciliation talks, a senior Palestinian official told AFP on Tuesday.

Ahead of the meeting, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Palestinian umbrella group dominated by Abbas’s Fatah party and of which Hamas is not a member, said reconciliation efforts should be speeded up.

“The PLO executive committee underlines the importance of making real progress to open the way for reconciliation and advancing toward holding… elections,” it said in a statement.

“The end of Palestinian division will help counter the pretext used by certain parties in the (UN) Security Council to put in doubt Palestine’s ability to become a member” of the world body, it said.

Simmering tensions between Hamas and Fatah boiled over into street battles in June 2007 and ended with the Islamist Hamas chasing secular Fatah from the Gaza Strip, leaving Abbas’s writ confined to the occupied West Bank.

After nearly four years of fruitless reconciliation efforts, Fatah signed an unexpected deal with Hamas in May under which the two sides were to have set up a caretaker government of independents to prepare for elections within a year.

But the agreement has never been implemented, with both sides bickering over the composition of the interim government and who should head it.

Abbas’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has proposed elections in January in a bid to resolve the dispute.

The last time the Palestinians went to the polls was for parliamentary elections in 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide.

New parliamentary and presidential elections had been due in January 2010, but the Palestinian Authority abandoned efforts to hold a vote after Hamas refused to organise one in Gaza.