Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Saturday with his rivals in Hamas in an attempt to end nearly four years of infighting.
Saturday's meeting in the West Bank - the first to involve Abbas in a year - had a relatively modest goal, to arrange a trip by Abbas to Hamas-ruled Gaza for more talks. He has not set foot in the territory since the Hamas takeover.
During the meeting Abbas said there will be no peace with Israel until Fatah and Hamas reconcile.
The Palestinian president presented his plan to end the division and expressed his willingness to visit the Gaza Strip and engage in negotiations with Hamas leadership. He also reiterated his willingness to form a new Palestinian government with independent parties before elections are held.
"We must address regional changes and face the challenges before the Palestinian people united," Abbas said. "The first challenge is the continued aggression by Israel which threatens to attack Gaza again."
The Palestinian president also discussed the need to maintain the state of calm "in order to block further Israeli threats" and to fight challenges to the Palestinian cause. Abbas stressed this must be accomplished before September, which must see Palestinians united.
Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said the meeting was a positive discussion but no headway was made in setting Abbas' Gaza visit.
"We hope that all the obstacles will be removed. The most important thing is to get to a practical result, which won't happen before the president's arrival to Gaza," he said.
Ayman Hussein of the Hamas delegation told The Associated Press that Abbas said he wants one government to rule both the West Bank and Gaza and that a date needs to be set for Palestinian elections, which have had to be delayed because of the division.
Hamas lawmaker Aziz Duwaik said many issues were discussed and "practical steps will follow very soon," without elaborating.
Earlier on Saturday, Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina issued a statement saying Abbas's plan is a "road map" which will pave the way towards Palestinian unity and the end of the occupation.
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