Hamas, Fatah begin talks in Cairo to resolve disputes

CAIRO - Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah began talks in Cairo on Wednesday aimed at resolving internal disputes and reviving their unity government.
The two-day talks will focus on “the return (of the unity government) in the Gaza Strip and the implementation of its authority without obstacles,” said the head of Fatah’s delegation, Azzam Al-Ahmad.
The talks come after a joint Palestinian delegation and Israel agreed to hold indirect talks in late October to thrash out a lasting truce in Gaza. Under Egyptian mediation, Israel and the Palestinians agreed on August 26 to a ceasefire that ended a 50-day war between Hamas and Israeli forces. But in order to negotiate with Israel in October, internal Palestinian divisions must be put aside and the two rival factions must agree on a unified strategy during talks with the Jewish negotiators.
The Palestinian rivals set up a unity government of independents in June but are at loggerheads again, with Abbas threatening to end the administration and accusing Hamas of running a “parallel government” as de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas Tuesday to discuss the situation in Gaza, a state department official said.
Kerry and Abbas agreed on the importance of providing humanitarian aid in Gaza, where a 50-day war with Israel destroyed homes and infrastructure in densely populated Gaza, leaving more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless in the long term, according to the United Nations.
Israel’s participation in Egyptian-brokered talks on consolidating a Gaza ceasefire is aimed at bolstering its security not a peace deal with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in remarks published Wednesday.
“These are negotiations on security issues, not peace negotiations,” Netanyahu told pro-government freesheet Israel Hayom.

“I was careful to ensure that this delegation focuses solely on security. I did not include my peace envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and none of the (cabinet) ministers.”
A ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s de facto ruler Hamas came into effect on August 26 after 50 days of conflict that claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met briefly with Egyptian mediators on Tuesday to discuss the terms of a broader truce before adjourning their talks until late October.
Netanyahu said that Israel would consider Hamas demands for the opening of an airport and seaport in Gaza only if the group agreed to lay down its arms, a condition it has repeatedly rejected.
“When Gaza is demilitarised and abandons the goal of destroying Israel, we are open to considering anything,” he told the English-language Jerusalem Post.
“The real issue is whether we can ensure Israel’s vital security interests, and enable the reconstruction of Gaza and humanitarian assistance under our security requirements. That, I think, will be the focus of what will be discussed, and certainly the focus of our current policies.”
Briefing journalists on Tuesday, retired Israeli brigadier general Mike Herzog, said that the interim ceasefire declared on August 26 was holding, despite minor skirmishes.
“On the ground, the situation is stable, the ceasefire is holding,” said Herzog, who played an advisory role in US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which collapsed earlier this year.
“The focus of this upcoming conference in Cairo is to see how one can stabilise this and make it sustainable and at the same time, opening the road for major reconstruction of Gaza without undermining Israel’s security,” he said.
Last week, the United Nations said it had negotiated a framework for the easing of Israel’s eight-year blockade of Gaza to enable the delivery of building materials for post-war reconstruction.

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