Palestinian Rivals Agree to Resume Reconciliation Efforts

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and its Islamist rival Hamas agreed to begin implementing previous accords aimed at reconciliation, kick-starting a long-stalled effort.

Abbas met yesterday with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, who has used his Islamist credentials and the nation’s traditional role in Palestinian peace-making to bring the two sides together. Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal also traveled to Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials.

The secular Fatah and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and is deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and Israel, agreed to “immediately begin” applying the mechanism to implement the accords, Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency reported late yesterday, without providing details. A meeting will be held in the first week of February to set a time-line, the Cairo-based agency said, citing a statement by the two factions.

The U.S.-backed Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since 2007, when the Islamist group ousted Abbas’s forces from Gaza a year after winning parliamentary elections. Abbas now rules the West Bank. Several attempts at reconciliation have failed.

Abbas “embraces the head of a terrorist organization just a month after he said that Israel should be wiped off the map,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today. “That isn’t how someone seeking peace should behave,” Netanyahu said, according to a text message from his office.

Mursi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali, was quoted by the state-run Nile News as saying the two sides had agreed to begin reconciliation efforts.

Mursi, who was fielded by the Muslim Brotherhood for Egypt’s presidency last year, earned international applause for helping broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that ended eight days of violence in November.

The meeting between the two factions yesterday included senior Egyptian intelligence officials, MENA said.

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