PA Unity Talks Collapsing, Again

Ad Feedback - CAIRO - The latest round of Egyptian-sponsored coalition negotiations between rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, are nearing collapse less than four days into the scheduled 10 days of meetings.

Egyptian mediators and members of Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority PA President Mahmoud Abbas, are trying to convince Hamas that it is in the PA's best interest to establish a coalition made up of nonaffiliated people.

"Fatah believes it is in the interest of the Palestinians to have a government of technocrats who do not belong to any political faction," senior Fatah official Ibrahim Abu al-Naja said.

Al-Najah said the United States and European Union, both members of the Quartet, which also includes the United Nations and Russia, have said they will not work with a PA unity government that does not accept the three basic tenets put forth by the Quartet: namely to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism and accept previously signed agreements between Israel and the PA.

Hamas, which openly refutes Israel's right to exist and considers acts of terror legitimate "resistance," insists that its representatives serve as ministers in a unity coalition.

In addition to the makeup of the government, other stumbling blocks include the timing of presidential and legislative elections and blending PA and Hamas security forces.

Abbas, whose tenure as president ended on January 9, wants to extend his term by a year and hold presidential and legislative elections together in January 2010.

Hamas wants separate elections for the presidency and legislature.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said if these issues aren't resolved in the next few days, the latest round of talks would fail to produce an agreement.

Barhoum was furious with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent statement that a PA unity government must accept the Quartet's three benchmarks.

"Who said we are going to form a government just to appease the Americans?" Barhoum asked. "The main reason for the schism in the Palestinian arena is U.S. meddling in our internal affairs," he said.

Hamas government spokesman Taher a-Nunu said the PLO's (Palestinian Liberation Organization) endorsement of a two-state solution was at the core of the failed talks.

"Fatah wants a government that accepts the two-state solution, and this is something that Hamas cannot and will never accept," a-Nunu said.

"We are prepared to accept a Palestinian state in the 1967 boundaries only as a temporary solution, without recognizing the Zionist occupation of any inch of our homeland," he said.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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