Cairo talks on hold as Hamas opts out

Egyptian and Palestinian officials announced Saturday that Palestinian reconciliation talks due to be held in Cairo had been postponed to an undetermined date after Hamas decided to boycott the meeting.


Palestinian reconciliation talks due to be held in Cairo were called off on Saturday after Hamas announced a boycott in protest at the detention of hundreds of its members by president Mahmud Abbas's security forces.

"They've been cancelled," Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told AFP. Another Egyptian official, who asked not to be named, said the talks "have been delayed to an undetermined date... at the request of Hamas."

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told AFP that "Hamas decided not to attend the dialogue talks in Egypt. We have informed the Egyptian authorities of our decision."

"Our decision was made because president Mahmud Abbas is continuing to weaken the Hamas movement and he has not released any Hamas detainees in the West Bank," he said.

Hamas and Abbas's secular Fatah movement have been bitterly divided since Hamas violently seized power in Gaza in June 2007, confining Abbas's rule to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and cleaving Palestinians into two hostile camps.

Egyptian intelligence, which had been mediating talks between individual rival Palestinian groups, said in a statement that round-table talks set for Monday were cancelled after Hamas announced its withdrawal.

"Hamas told us it would not participate in the dialogue and therefore Egypt delayed talks until an opportunity presents itself," the statement said.

A leading member of the Islamic Jihad delegation in Cairo for the talks said his delegation was returning to Gaza.

"The Islamic Jihad delegation in Cairo is leaving to Gaza because there is no meaning to dialogue without Hamas and Fatah," said Mohamad al-Hindi.

"We expended great efforts in the last moments... Egypt told us that it will continue efforts to remove obstacles and come up with a new date," he added.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina slammed Hamas's decision and blamed the rival movement for being responsible for the talks' failure.

"Hamas carries the responsibility for the failure of the Cairo dialogue and the responsibility for losing the opportunity to regain Palestinian unity and stop the division between Palestinians," he told AFP.

Abu Rudeina also denied Abbas has arrested Hamas members.

Hamas had already expressed reservations about the plan, which calls for a politically independent transitional government to pave the way for new elections, saying Abbas would get an automatic extension of a term the Islamists insist ends in January.

Abbas insisted his law enforcement forces arrested people who posed a security risk, irrespective of political affiliation. "They are arrested and brought to justice," he said at a joint news conference on Friday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning