Hopes are high ahead of today’s talks between Palestinian leaders in Saudi Arabia. President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Mecca. But if hopes are high, so are the stakes. Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a bitter power struggle for more than a year now, and dozens have been killed during spiralling violence in Gaza.
The two groups will meet in the presence of Saudi mediators in Islam’s holiest city, where they will try to thrash out an agreement to form a unity government. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the new regime must renounce violence and recognise Israel:
“If the Palestinian government will accept these principles, if a Palestinian government, no matter who is part of it, will accept the basic principles of the Quartet as were so clearly stipulated in the recent statement made by the Quartet in Washington, then of course it will pave the way for further negotiations.”
There is huge pressure for a breakthrough. It´s hoped that replacement of the Hamas-led government with a broader coalition could help end a crippling Western aid boycott and help the Palestinians re-engage fully with the international community.