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Abbas holds unity talks with Hamas chief Meshaal

Islamist group Hamas and 13 other Palestinian factions moved closer to joining the Palestinian Liberation Organisation on Thursday after talks between Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal (left) in Cairo.


AFP - Palestinian factions, including Hamas, are "on the path joining" the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal told AFP Thursday following unity talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Abbas and Meshaal met to discuss reforming the PLO, in a bid to allow the Islamist movement and 13 other Palestinian factions to join.

"This is a new departure on the path to joining the PLO of all Palestinian movements", Meshaal said following the talks in the Egyptian capital.

The Hamas leader said there was "an excellent atmosphere" surrounding his meeting with Abbas, which also included Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi and Palestinian independents.

Independent MP Mustafa Barghouti said the participation of unaffiliated delegates such as himself and businessman Munib al-Masri alongside representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad was "a historic event."

"It is the first time there is a unified leadership for all political and intellectual streams," he told AFP.

In a statement, Hamas said the groups had decided to create an electoral commission, including members of every Palestinian faction, tasked with managing elections within the PLO.

The commission will be led the speaker of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), Selim Zaanoun, and will meet in Jordan's capital next month.

"A law concerning elections to the PLO was given to the participants for them to study and each movement is to give its response for January 15 so that it can be discusssed at the first meeting of the commission", the statement added.

Thursday's meeting of the so-called provisional leadership, which was chaired by Abbas, included the leaders of all the Palestinian factions and members of the PLO Executive Committee.

Earlier Thursday, Abbas signed off on the creation of a separate nine-member panel to chart a path forward for Palestinian presidential and legislative elections.

It was the first time the provisional leadership body had met since it was formed in 2005 with the aim of providing a forum for debating reform of the PLO and allowing for the participation of factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

This meeting was "the first concrete application of the Cairo agreement, of the reconciliation and of the partnership between all the political forces," Fatah delegation head Azzam al-Ahmed told AFP earlier on Thursday.

The aim of the three-day meeting was to "focus on the restructuring of the PLO leadership and of the PNC," he said, referring to the PLO's parliament-in-exile which has more than 650 members on its books but which has not met in full session for 15 years.

"This body will demonstrate the incontestable fact that the PLO is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," he said.

He said the provisional leadership body would meet again in Cairo on February 2.


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