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Middle East

Fatah negotiator accuses Hamas of stalling unity

media Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians joined a rare rally staged by President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group in Gaza on Friday 4 January 2013 Reuters/Mohammed Salem

A leading member of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement says Hamas is deliberately stalling the implementation of a unity agreement between the two Palestinian factions. Fatah chief negotiators Ashraf Jomaa spoke exclusively to RFI to express his dismay at the breakdown in negotiations with Hamas, who criticised Fatah prior to a visit by US President Barack Obama later this month.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, which rules the West Bank, announced a unity deal following Israel's Gaza offensive in November and later agreed to implement the terms of a unity agreement by the end of January.

In his office in Rafah, the southernmost point of the Gaza Strip, Jomaa accused Hamas of  playing for time, thus allowing themselves to gain more power in Gaza.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Senior Hamas official Salah Bardaweel stated on 3 March that Fatah “had sold the reconciliation for an American smile,” after the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority arrested 66 Hamas members in the West Bank.

Speaking exclusively to RFI, Jomaa pointed the finger at Hamas for the delay in starting the reconciliation process:

“Mahmoud Abbas asked for the formation of this government to take place within three months, in order to keep control of the situation in Gaza," he said. "Hamas have stated they want at least six months, which Fatah continues to object to. Hamas also delayed a meeting where we were due to discuss freeing political prisoners on both sides.”

Although Jomaa stated that the reasons for the delay were unknown, he argued that it was an assertion of control by Hamas, whose power in Gaza has been strengthened after the latest conflict with Israel.

He also hinted at the possibility of further conflict between the two groups if a deal is not reached prior to the next election, which has been delayed for some years.

“Fatah cannot exist in Gaza without the consent of Hamas, and Hamas cannot exist in the West Bank without the consent of the Palestinian Authority," Jomaa insisted. "Therefore the priority is to ensure this unity deal prior to any vote taking place.”

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