Palestinian unity talks to restart in April

Factions reportedly agree to move forward in drive for unified government and national elections after talks in February stalled

Hamas and Fatah officials meet in Cairo for unity talks in February 2012. (photo credit: Mohammed al-Hums/Flash 90)
Hamas and Fatah officials meet in Cairo for unity talks in February 2012. (photo credit: Mohammed al-Hums/Flash 90)

Hamas and Fatah officials are reportedly slated to meet in April in an effort to renew national unity talks under Egypt’s guiding hand.

Yasser al-Wadia, the general coordinator for independent political figures, told Palestinian news agency Ma’an that all national factions have “agreed to move forward to end national division.”

Unity talks stalled after the last set of meetings, held in Cairo in February, failed to mend a six-year rift between the two major rivals, Fatah and Hamas, and send the Palestinians to parliamentary elections. The two parties signed a reconciliation deal in 2011, but it has yet to be implemented and the particulars of the agreement remain undefined. The two parties were split on issues regarding the Palestine National Council, the PLO parliament, and legislative and presidential elections in the Palestinian territories.

The last parliamentary vote in Gaza and the West Bank was held in 2006, when Hamas rose to power in a stunning defeat of Fatah, sparking an internecine war between the factions. The Islamic group forcefully ejected Fatah from the Strip the following year.

In February, the Palestinians’ Central Elections Commission registered potential voters across the West Bank and Gaza Strip in preparation for parliamentary and presidential elections. There was a relatively low turnout in Gaza — no surprise given that Hamas had prevented the committee from operating in the Strip before that point.

Prior to that national voter registration drive, Palestinians in the West Bank also reflected voter apathy at the end of 2012 — turnout was just under 55 percent — when residents came out to select their local councils.

Hamas had prevented voting in Gaza during the local elections and boycotted the contest in the West Bank, arguing that elections can only be held once Hamas and Fatah reconcile. “We ask to stop this disgrace,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, dismissing the vote as meaningless.

Saeb Erekat, a senior Abbas aide, countered that “Hamas cannot have a veto on democracy.” Critics say the group banned voting in Gaza to prevent largely vanquished rivals, particularly from Fatah, from gaining a new foothold there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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