Talks between the exiled political chief of Hamas Khaled Meshaal and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have ended in stalemate. It had been hoped the meeting in the Syrian capital Damascus would make some headway in forming a national unity government. Despite the deadlock, both men stressed the need to prevent factional fighting between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party from descending into civil war.
Negotiations are due to resume in two weeks. The main stumbling block is thought to be the establishment of a future Palestinian state. Fatah wants talks with Israel but Hamas refuses to acknowledge Israel.
Meanwhile, the EU’s Foreign Policy chief has urged Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank. Javier Solana, who is on a tour of the Middle East, said he had been taken aback by the scale of the developments. Solana said the expansion could obstruct a lasting Arab-Israeli peace. Settlement building in disputed territories of the West Bank is illegal under international law. Israel, however, disputes this.