Abbas meets Hamas leaders Mashaal and Haniyeh in Qatar
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Abbas meets Hamas leaders Mashaal and Haniyeh in Qatar

Leaders of warring factions agree reconciliation must be achieved, Palestinian statehood must encompass Gaza

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and then-Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani  in Doha, Qatar, February 6, 2012. (AP/Amr Nabil)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and then-Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in Doha, Qatar, February 6, 2012. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a rare meeting with the heads of rival party Hamas in Qatar on Thursday, in direct talks aimed at ending years of hostility between the two movements.

The 81-year-old Abbas met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and Hamas’s Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, for a “business lunch” in Doha, the PA’s official news agency Wafa said.

According to the report, the two sides agreed on the need to end the almost decade-long internecine battle, stating that “reconciliation is the main pathway to protecting the Palestinian national project and to counter the Israeli government plots aimed at destroying the two-state option.”

Wafa’s account was at odds with Hamas’s general narrative: The terror group in control of Gaza does not officially support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead openly declaring it seeks to retake historic Palestine through violent means.

Hamas has been in conflict with Abbas’s Fatah movement, which runs the West Bank, since 2007, despite multiple attempts to broker reconciliation.

A picture of the meeting in Doha was published by Fatah over Twitter.

Abbas said during the meeting that the Palestinians “must achieve Palestinian national reconciliation, and remove the causes of division through the formation of a national unity governmentm and elections must be held.”

National Palestinian elections haven’t been held since 2006, when Fatah lost to Hamas. A year later, Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority government in a violent coup.

The two sides also reportedly agreed Thursday on that “there is no Palestinian state in Gaza, and there can be no Palestinian state without Gaza.”

Abbas was in Doha to attend the funeral of Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, who died on Sunday. Mashaal lives in Qatar while Haniyeh, who is expected to soon replace Mashaal as the political head of Hamas, is in the Gulf country on an extended visit from Gaza.

The PA president also used the opportunity to thank Qatar and Egypt for their help in facilitating reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas.

The meeting in Doha was attended by the Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Ambassador to Qatar Munir Ghanam.

On Wednesday, Hamas said in statement that it was willing to hold meeting with Fatah or any of the Palestinian factions, if the circumstances were “suitable for the success of reconciliation and ending the division.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Kassem said on twitter after news of the Qatar meeting broke that “achieving Palestinian reconciliation and ending division is a strategic goal of Hamas.”

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