JERUSALEM, Israel -- Saeb Erekat, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization and chief negotiator in the Israeli-Arab talks, called for unity with Hamas, the Islamist faction ruling the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a conference entitled "The Strategy of Resistance" on Saturday, Erekat called on Hamas to "implement the Cairo and Doha agreements," Arutz Sheva reported.
"We demand that Hamas, more than ever before, implement the Cairo and Doha agreements," Erekat said. "The political movements have an obligation to resolve their differences at the ballot box and not through bullets."
The two rival Palestinian factions established a unity government in March 2007, based on a Saudi-sponsored agreement called the Mecca Accords. In June 2007, following a bloody military coup in the Gaza Strip that left Hamas in control, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the three-month-old unity government, replacing it with an "emergency government" and appointing Salam Fayyad to replace Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister.
In the ensuing years, several Arab countries, including Egypt, Yemen and Jordan, tried to convince the two rival factions to resolve their differences and form another unity government.
But despite announcements in Cairo and Doha, reconciliation has never happened, leaving Fatah in control of Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, ruling Gaza.
Hamas has been in dire straits since the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, now on trial in Egypt.
But that doesn't seem to faze Erekat, who told conference participants Hamas was never a terrorist group.
"I hereby declare in the name of President Mahmoud Abbas [whose four-year term expired in January 2009] and the directorate of Fatah, that Hamas is a Palestinian movement and is not and never was a terrorist group," Erekat reportedly said.