The leaders of the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions have agreed to implement a long-delayed reconciliation deal during talks in Cairo. It was the rival parties' first meeting in almost a year.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah movement and Khaled Meshaal who leads the Islamist group Hamas met in Cairo on Wednesday in a renewed effort to end years of infighting. Fatah currently controls the West Bank, while Hamas is based in the Gaza strip.
The two reportedly agreed to implement the reconciliation unity agreement, signed in Cairo in May 2011. The 2011 deal called on both sides to form a unity government that would oversee an election and reform Abbas' Palestine Liberation Organization to include Hamas. Its main provisions have yet to be put into practice.
"The two parties agreed to call on all Palestinian factions to implement the reconciliation agreement," Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq, who attended the gathering, told news agency AFP.
It was held in a "very good and promising atmosphere," he added.
It remains unclear, however, whether Wednesday's agreement goes beyond a deal to hold more talks. The date and details of a follow-up meeting have also not been given.
Tensions between the rival factions came to a head in May 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza by force. Although Israel's assault on Gaza in November brought the two sides closer together, they still differ in their approach to Israeli occupation.
Abbas condemns the use of violence and has said he is prepared to hold peace talks with Israel with certain conditions. Hamas, meanwhile, rejects Israel's right to exist, but says it might consider a long-term ceasefire deal.
The US and EU have designated Hamas as a terrorist group. They have demanded that it renounce violence and recognize Israel.
ccp/lw (AFP, Reuters)