Fatah and Hamas
have agreed in principle to launch a secret dialogue in Cairo, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.
According to the report, a Palestinian source told the newspaper that Egypt's efforts to mediate between the two movements have succeeded and have yielded an agreement in principle to hold secret talks in Cairo.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
are expected to meet Wednesday for the sixth time in order to discuss their joint statements for the US-sponsored Mideast peace conference scheduled to take place in Annapolis in November.
Last weekend, Abbas said in an interview with Newsweek that he was against Hamas and now identifies with the American stance. He also said that he would not reunite in a government with Hamas under any circumstances "because it was a very bad experience."
Asked about his conditions for talks with Hamas, Abbas replied that the two groups would talk only after the situation in the Gaza Strip returns to its original state.
According to the Palestinian source who spoke to al-Sharq al-Awsat, however, Abbas informed Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who is in charge of the mediation efforts, of his agreement in principle to launch a secret dialogue with Hamas representatives.
The source added that Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah faction in the Palestinian parliament, will head the movement's delegation to the talks, although a date for the start of the dialogue has yet to be set.
According to the report, General Suleiman asked both movements to provide him with their "vision" for a solution to the crisis before setting a date to start the talks. The Egyptian suggestion for solving the dispute will be presented to the representatives when the meetings begin.
According to the report, Suleiman has been holding direct talks with members of Hamas' political bureau in Damascus, headed by the organization's politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, in addition to the ongoing talks with Abbas and Fatah leaders in the territories and elsewhere.
The report added that Mustafa Othman Ismail, the Sudanese president's foreign affairs advisor, recently contacted Abbas and Mashaal and offered to mediate between the two, but went back on his offer after learning that Egypt was already leading the mediation efforts.
Different sources from both movements told the newspaper that "unplanned meetings" had already been held between representatives of the two movements in Beirut following meetings held by the Palestinian factions three weeks ago.
According to the reports, Abbas' former national security advisor Jibril Rajoub met with Muhammad Nazzal, a member of Hamas' political bureau in a bid to solve the crisis, but the meeting failed to bring the movements closer.
The report said the two officials disagreed over the question which side should make the first move in order to make the dialogue succeed and express the sincerity of its intentions.
Ronny Sofer contributed to this report