The Palestinians’ secular Fatah faction and the Islamist Hamas faction have put a ceremonial seal on a reconciliation agreement between them.
However, signs of continuing friction remain. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal did not sit near Palestinian President and head of Fatah Mahmoud Abbas, and each let a substitute sign the document.
The deal calls for forming a joint interim government to run the West Bank, where Abbas is based, and the Gaza Strip, and to prepare elections within a year.
In his opening address, Abbas referred to the duration of the Hamas-Fatah conflict. He said: “Four black years have affected the interests of the Palestinians. Now we meet to assert a unified will, to turn the black page of division, forever.”
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces in a Palestinian civil war in 2007. They are expected to start work on implementing the new accord next week.
Meshaal said: “We in Hamas are ready and decided — perhaps all factions are — to pay any price for the sake of completing reconciliation, and to turn texts into reality.”
He also said he did not believe Israel was ready for peace with any Palestinians.
Much of the West shuns Hamas for refusing to recognise Israel and renounce violence. The US showed little enthusiasm for the reconciliation accord. Israel condemned it.
The euronews correspondent in Cairo said: “Applying the new deal will be Fatah’s and Hamas’ hardest task. Yet the importance of the reconciliation lies in its potential to unify Palestinians, in order to save the dream of their state, under changing circumstances in the entire Arab region.”