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Egyptian mediators ‘postpone’ Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks

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Egyptian mediators have “postponed” reconciliation talks in Cairo between Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah after a series of indirect contacts laid bare a huge gap between the two rivals, security sources told The National on Thursday.

The Egyptian sources, who are close to the proceedings, said the decision to postpone the talks followed a series of exploratory conversations by the mediators with both sides behind closed doors.

The mediators, the sources said, wanted to shift focus to what they saw as the more pressing tasks of negotiating an exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas as well as a lasting truce.

The sources did not say when the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks were likely to start and there was no official word immediately available from Hamas or Fatah. The sources said mediators remained convinced that a deal between Hamas and Fatah was still attainable.

Egypt mediated a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel last month, ending an 11-day war in which more than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. It has followed up on the May 21 ceasefire with stepped up diplomacy to prevent another outbreak of hostilities.

Fatah is the main faction in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas. It has been at odds with the militant Hamas group since the two sides fought a brief civil war in the Gaza Strip in 2007, which ended with Fatah’s expulsion from the coastal enclave.

Hamas has ruled the Mediterranean enclave alone since then.

Past attempts by Egypt, which neighbours Gaza and Israel, to reconcile Hamas and Fatah have either failed or ended with deals that were never implemented.

The sources said differences between the two sides in Cairo centred mostly on Fatah’s attempts to sideline Hamas and insisting that the Palestinian Authority alone speaks on behalf of the Palestinian people.

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