Leaders of the rival Palestinian movements Hamas and Fatah on Sunday called for fresh attempts to cement a reconciliation process that has been stalled for more than a year.
In Gaza, the exiled head of the Hamas movement Khaled Meshaal, in his first ever trip to the coastal territory, said it was time for the bitter opponents to make good on the deal they signed in Cairo in 2011.
“We want national unity in the armed resistance and popular resistance. I urge you towards reconciliation and national unity of the Palestinian ranks,” he said in a speech at Gaza’s Islamic University.
“Palestine is too big for a single movement,” he added. “Palestine is for all of us, we are partners in this nation. Hamas cannot do without Fatah or Fatah without Hamas, or any movement.”
“We are under occupation, we need free and fair elections, then a national partnership to assume responsibilities,” Meshaal said later during a meeting with the families of those killed in last month’s conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.
Meanwhile, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas — who heads the Fatah movement — called at a meeting in Doha for reconciliation efforts to resume, saying holding the elections called for in 2011 would be the key.
“Without these elections there will be no reconciliation,” he said at an Arab League gathering in Qatar.
In a Saturday speech at a rally celebrating Hamas’s 25th anniversary, Meshaal also called for new efforts to implement the 2011 deal, which stalled over the formation of an interim consensus government before new elections.
Abbas’s Fatah movement on Sunday welcomed his comments, with Azzam al-Ahmed, head of Fatah’s central committee and its point man for reconciliation talks, saying the faction “strongly welcomes the speech of Khaled Meshaal, which was very positive on the issue of the Palestinian division.”
“The speech was positive on the issues of one president for the Palestinian people, and one authority and one law, and we do not disagree with him at all on these issues, which are the focus of the reconciliation agreement that was signed by Fatah and Hamas and the other factions to end the division,” he said.
The 2011 deal agreed in Cairo was intended to pave the way for presidential and legislative elections by May 2012, but disagreements over who would head a transitional government snarled implementation of the agreement.
Earlier this year, Meshaal and Abbas signed a new deal in Doha, under which the president would head the interim government. But Hamas leaders in Gaza rejected the deal, and accused Meshaal of taking decisions without their backing.
Ahmed said on Sunday he hoped that Meshaal’s call from Gaza for new reconciliation efforts meant the Islamist faction was now united on the issue.
“The importance of the speech is that he was in Gaza, and in the presence of the Hamas leadership-in-exile. We hope it reflects the position of all of Hamas,” Ahmed said.