Russia will host reconciliation talks in Moscow on January 15 between Fatah and Hamas in an attempt to patch up the nearly decade-long rift between the rival Palestinian factions, according to Russia’s semi-official TASS news agency.
The timing of the talks would be conspicuous, as they would be taking place on the same day as a planned Mideast peace conference in Paris.
The fissure between Fatah and Hamas began after Hamas surprisingly won a plurality in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. The two parties fell out when they were unable to reach a power-sharing agreement due in large part to Hamas’s refusal to renounce violence against Israel, with which Fatah was engaged in peace talks. The split came to a head with Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
There have been numerous attempts to broker a truce between the two sides since their fallout, including an announcement of a unity government in 2014. However, subsequent discussions on the establishment of such a government did not bear fruit and the two sides remain divided between their separate fiefdoms.
Russia has previously expressed its desire for intra-Palestinian reconciliation. Speaking in June 2016 at a Paris meeting on how to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov described “the split among Palestinians” as “another negative factor hampering the peace process,” according to TASS.
“This issue should be resolved as the priority task so that the Palestinians present a single and united delegation at the talks on the final [peace] status,” he said at the time.
Bogdanov has also previously said that Russia does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization, in contrast to the Israeli and US position on the terror group.
It is not clear what if any impact the reported reconciliation talks will have on the planned Paris peace summit.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is open to resuming peace talks, he has previously refused to negotiate with the Palestinians if Hamas is included in the discussions.
Israel blamed the 2014 Fatah-Hamas unity pact as having led to the collapse of the last round of peace talks, saying at the time that it would not negotiate with a terror group committed to its destruction.
The Palestinians view the Paris peace conference as an opportunity to set a framework for future negotiations with Israel and build on the recent United Nations Security Council resolution and US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech condemning Israeli settlement construction as a major obstacle to peace.
Israel has refused to attend the January 15 gathering, with officials insisting that only bilateral negotiations will lead to a peace arrangement. The Palestinians support the French initiative, which will see representatives of some two dozen countries convening in a bid to jump-start peace efforts.