Monday, January 4, 2010

Hamas leader hails Saudi reconciliation talks


RIYADH (Agencies)

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Sunday the Islamist group was in the final stages of achieving reconciliation with the rival Palestinian Fatah party after he met Saudi Arabian officials to try to narrow the rift.

"We achieved great strides towards achieving reconciliation," Meshaal told reporters at the foreign ministry during a visit to the Saudi capital. "We are in the final stages now."

An Egyptian proposal to promote reconciliation between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group has called for presidential and legislative elections to be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip next June.

" We still hope that the kingdom plays a special role alongside Egypt and Arab countries to help us first succeed in sponsoring the Palestinian reconciliation and unify the Palestinian position and also to prompt Arabs to confront the stubborn Israeli administration "
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal

Meshaal said Hamas still had some points to resolve in the Egyptian proposal.

"We all agree that the signing of the (reconciliation) will take place in Cairo," he said.

Meshaal's visit with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal was designed to help reconciliation of the feud, Saudi officials said.

"We still hope that the kingdom plays a special role alongside Egypt and Arab countries to help us first succeed in sponsoring the Palestinian reconciliation and unify the Palestinian position and also to prompt Arabs to confront the stubborn Israeli administration," Meshaal said.


Peace process

" The United States is hoping that the two letters will serve as a basis for the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations but we don't know if they will satisfy the Palestinians, who want a complete freeze of settlement activity before talks resume "
An Arab diplomat

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Abbas arrived in Egypt for talks aimed at relaunching peace talks with Israel, amid lingering divisions over Jewish settlement expansion.

Abbas met with Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman after jetting in to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he is hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday before heading to Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey.

"President Abbas will present to President Mubarak the important developments that confront the Palestinian cause and the great challenges facing the entire region," Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

The visit comes almost a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Cairo with Mubarak about the stalled peace process and as diplomats said Washington was drafting letters of guarantees for the peace talks.

An Arab diplomat told AFP last week that U.S. special envoy George Mitchell would present the letters to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on his next visit to the region.

"The United States is hoping that the two letters will serve as a basis for the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations but we don't know if they will satisfy the Palestinians, who want a complete freeze of settlement activity before talks resume," the diplomat said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit is also planning to visit Washington for talks with officials on January 7, and has said he will be accompanied by Cairo's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly called on the two sides to resume peace talks, but the Palestinians have demanded Israel first freeze all settlement activity and commit to a framework for the talks.