Arab News - 21 March, 2008
The latest attempt to reconcile Fatah and Hamas ended in failure yesterday, with each party blaming the other.
The announcement came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Syria that Palestinian reconciliation was key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The initiative, sponsored by Yemen, called for a return to the political status quo that existed before Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, routing forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a week of deadly street battles.
Abbas, who also leads Fatah, claimed Hamas rejected the proposals.
Hamas "did not accept the formula proposed by Yemen and expressed reservations that voided it of substance," said Abbas.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina claimed Hamas refused to engage in dialogue with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which includes several organizations, including Fatah, but not Hamas.
"Hamas rejected the Yemeni initiative for inter-Palestinian reconciliation," said Abu Rudeina.
However, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri insisted in Gaza the Islamists had accepted the initiative, but that the announcement of failure demonstrated that Abbas "shuns any dialogue."
Hamas and PLO delegations were in Sanaa this week for separate talks on the bid to heal the deep rift between them.
Abbas said the PLO delegation was heading home, but would be willing to return to Yemen should Hamas accept the full initiative.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Kurbi said the rival groups would make a renewed attempt to reach a compromise tomorrow.
Hamas No. 2 Mussa Abu Marzuk said in Yemen on Wednesday they would share control of Gaza if Abbas reappoints Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister.
After his forces were routed from Gaza, Abbas dismissed Haniyeh and suspended talks with the Islamists, which he has refused to resume until the movement relinquishes control of the Palestinian enclave.
In Damascus, Lavrov said it was crucial Palestinian unity should be restored. "It is necessary in order to continue negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," Lavrov said at a news conference.
Long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have made little progress since they were revived at a US-sponsored conference in November.
Israel has been negotiating with the Abbas government, but refuses to engage in talks with Hamas. Israel has also imposed a crippling embargo on Gaza and, on Feb. 27, launched a deadly five-day blitz on the narrow enclave.
Lavrov called for a "global solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict and said talks should be restarted with Israel on the Syrian and Lebanese peace tracks.
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