Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, June 09, 2008

"Senegal says Hamas, Fatah talks help restore trust," YNet/Reuters, June 8, 2008.

Statement signed by representatives from rival Palestinian groups says renewed talks in Dakar 'allowed them to discuss the fundamental interests of the Palestinian people'

Talks between Fatah and Hamas in the Senegalese capital Dakar this weekend had restored "an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect" between the Palestinian factions, a statement signed by both sides said on Sunday.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, offered his services in March as a mediator between the two parties, which clashed a year ago when Islamist Hamas fighters wrested power from Fatah in the Gaza Strip.

A statement following the talks, which began on Friday, said Senegal would resume contact with both sides to organize future meetings with the aim of "reconciling the Palestinian family".

"The Palestinian representatives ... thank the mediator for managing to restore an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, which allowed them to discuss the fundamental interests of the Palestinian people," said the communique signed by Hikmat Zeid for Fatah, Emad Khalid Alamy for Hamas and Senegal's Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio.

'New spirit of dialogue'

Senegal's state news agency APS reported on Saturday that Wade had met individually with the Palestinian delegations. The mediation would take place in seven stages, it quoted a presidential spokesman as saying.

Hamas ended more than 40 years of the more secular Fatah's ascendancy with a victory in parliamentary elections in 2006. Hamas fighters went on to rout Fatah forces and take over the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Yemen tried to broker a reconciliation deal between the rival Palestinian movements in March but efforts broke down after disagreement over whether Hamas should cede control of the coastal territory.

Arab ministers meeting at the Arab League have backed the Yemeni proposal, which calls on Hamas to hand over control of Gaza. Hamas says it is ready to resume dialogue but without preconditions.

Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, called Syrian President Bashar Assad and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Saturday, seeking Arab support for the renewed dialogue, Haniyeh's office said.

Haniyeh said last Thursday he welcomed what he called a "new spirit" of dialogue in a keynote speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah.

See also "Report: Abbas informed of Israel's plan to retake Gaza," Ynet Al-Quds Al-Arabi quotes Palestinian sources as saying that Abbas called for renewed talks with Hamas in effort to thwart Jerusalem's plan to launch broad military operation in Strip, gradually transfer control over to Palestinian Authority.

Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Abbas had no other choice but to resume negotiations with the Islamist group "after realizing that all of his other options, such as the attempt to isolate Hamas and participate in the blockade on Gaza, had failed".
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