Palestinian Fatah, Hamas met in Turkey, officials say

Palestinians wave flags as they celebrate the reconciliation between rival factions Fatah and Hamas, during a rally in Gaza City on May 11, 2011.

May 26, 2011, Thursday/ 16:31:00

Representatives from Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah met in Ankara last weekend to discuss ways to strengthen national dialogue, sources told Today's Zaman on Thursday.

The meeting, organized by a Finnish nongovernmental organization, was backed by Turkey, officials said. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official addressed a reception held at the opening of Saturday's meeting but no Turkish official attended the talks.

The meeting came after Fatah and Hamas proclaimed a landmark unity deal aimed at ending their bitter, four-year rift on May 4 in Cairo, Egypt. Turkey threw its support behind the reconciliation deal, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu attending the signing ceremony in Cairo and calling on Israel and the international community to also support the deal.

Fatah lawmaker Ashraf Juma confirmed that the Fatah side had talks with Hamas representatives at the Ankara meeting. Speaking to the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, Juma said members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and Osama al-Farra, a Fatah politician who is mayor of the city of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, attended the talks on behalf of Fatah. Hamas was represented by Ahmad Yousef, an advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and lawmakers Yahya Mousa and Ismail al-Asqar.

Juma said the meeting focused on ways to implement a reconciliation deal and strengthen dialogue. The two sides, he said, discussed how the reconciliation deal could further be developed. He also said a new unity government that Hamas and Fatah agreed to set up would probably be established over the next two weeks.

Commenting on the Ankara meeting, Hamas lawmaker al-Asqar said he hoped the gathering would turn a new page in furthering reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

The historic reconciliation deal is a major step as Palestinians are planning to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state in the fall. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah on Wednesday dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's outline of a peace deal, presented during a speech to the US Congress this week, as a non-starter and said he's now setting his sights on the UN recognition of a Palestinian state unless the Israeli prime minister softens his stance by then.

In his address on Tuesday, Netanyahu also said Abbas must tear up his reconciliation deal with Hamas before any negotiations can begin.

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