Gaza ceasefire indirect talks to resume in Egypt

Indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians on consolidating the Gaza truce are set to resume in Cairo Wednesday, two days after new reconciliation negotiations between Fatah and Hamas, officials said.

AFP| Updated: Sep 21, 2014, 02:05 AM IST

Ramallah: Indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians on consolidating the Gaza truce are set to resume in Cairo Wednesday, two days after new reconciliation negotiations between Fatah and Hamas, officials said.

On August 26, both sides agreed a truce that ended 50 days of deadly conflict in the enclave and provided for a resumption of negotiations within a month to discuss unresolved issues.

These include the construction of a seaport and restoring the territory`s airport, and exchanging Palestinian prisoners for the remains of Israeli soldiers.

The indirect talks between Israel and a delegation of all Palestinian groups will be preceded by talks between the two heavyweights of Palestinian politics, Fatah Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Islamist Hamas.

"Egypt has invited Palestinian and Israeli delegations to resume talks in Cairo on September 24," a Palestinian official said.

There has been no official word yet from Israel, but an Egyptian official confirmed the date and added that Fatah and Hamas had also been invited to meet on Monday.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to comment on the announcement of talks on Wednesday.

However, the celebration of Rosh Hashanah begins in Israel on Wednesday night and Thursday and Friday are holidays. Saturday, Shabbat, is also a day off.

Both Israeli army radio and the Haaretz website said Egypt had accepted an Israeli request to bring the talks a day forward to Tuesday to take the religious holidays into account.

In April, Hamas agreed to work with its rivals in Abbas`s Fatah movement to form an interim consensus government of technocrats which would work towards long-delayed national elections.The deal sought to end years of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalry between Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

A new cabinet took office on June 2, with Gaza`s Hamas government officially stepping down the same day.

But early this month Abbas accused Hamas of running a parallel administration in Gaza.

"We won`t accept a partnership with them if the situation continues like this in Gaza, where there is a shadow government... running the territory," he said.

Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, denied the accusation.

"There is a national unity government; talk of a parallel government is totally against reality," Meshaal said on a trip to Tunisia.

Sakher Bseiso, a member of Fatah`s central committee and of the delegation invited to Cairo, told AFP Fatah and Hamas delegations of five senior members would travel to Cairo for the inter-Palestinian talks.

The sides will discuss in particular the issue of the transfer of power in Gaza to the national unity government and security in the enclave after the war ended last month, Bseiso added.

The 50-day war killed more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

Bseiso said "negotiations with Israel must be based on a clear vision on which the Palestinians, particularly Fatah and Hamas, will agree in advance and on a unified Palestinian strategy."

The indirect talks in Cairo, working through Egyptian mediators, are aimed at agreeing a more formal and long-term version of the existing open-ended truce.

The July-August war caused a vast amount of destruction to homes and infrastructure, leaving more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless in the long term, according to the United Nations.

On October 12, Cairo is set to host an international donor conference on the reconstruction of Gaza, amid warnings that the PA should manage the work and the funds allocated to it, urging Hamas to hand over power in Gaza to the authority.