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Middle east

Talks on joint Hamas-Fatah security force fall through

Latest update : 2009-05-19

Representatives of rival factions Fatah and Hamas have failed to agree on the formation of a joint security force in the Gaza Strip in Egyptian-brokered talks, despite previous reports that the discussions had met with success.

AFP - Hopes of a breakthrough in Palestinian reconciliation talks were dashed on Monday when Fatah and Hamas each rejected the other's terms for a joint security force.
   
Instead the rival factions adjourned their fifth round of discussions in Cairo with a number of stumbling blocks still remaining.
   
No date was announced for the next round of negotiations but Egypt, the sponsor of the talks, has set a target date of July 7 for the signing of an agreement, senior Fatah official Zakaria al-Agha told AFP.
   
The meetings between representatives of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party and the Islamist Hamas movement are aimed at healing bitter divisions between the two since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
   
Fatah wants to see the Hamas security force in Gaza replaced with a joint force of 10,000 to 15,000 personnel overseeing all aspects of security in the tiny territory, Agha said.
   
Egypt's state news agency MENA on Sunday cited senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath as saying Fatah and Hamas had agreed to form a joint force in Gaza and hoped to announce a definitive reconciliation deal at the start of July.
   
But Agha said on Monday that Hamas wanted to keep its own forces on the ground and set up a joint force of 300 to oversee only the borders.
   
Hamas rejected the idea of a joint Palestinian force in Gaza unless it also operated in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
   
Salah al-Bardawil, spokesman for Hamas's parliamentary bloc, said in Gaza City that any agreement on the formation of a new security force as part of the Cairo talks would have to apply to all the Palestinian territories.
   
Fatah's Agha said another hurdle in the reconciliation efforts is the proposed role of a Cairo-proposed committee that would coordinate between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.
   
"Hamas wants the committee to coordinate between the two governments," he said, adding that his group rejected the idea of two governments.
   
"There is only one government and we believe this committee should coordinate between that government and Hamas in Gaza as well as NGOs in the strip," he said.
   
Agreement between the two Palestinian factions is vital for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, devasted by Israel's 22-day offensive in  December and January that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.
   
International donor countries pledged 4.5 billion dollars in reconstruction aid to Gaza at a conference in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in March.
   
But many donor countries refuse to channel their funds via Hamas, insisting Abbas's Palestinian government must supervise the spending.
   
Hamas emerged victorious from Palestinian elections in 2006 but Israel and the international community have refused to have any dealings with a government including the group, which is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state.

Date created : 2009-05-19

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