Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas attends a meeting of Palestinian businessmen, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 29, 2014
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas attends a meeting of Palestinian businessmen, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 29, 2014 © Abbas Momani - AFP/File
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas attends a meeting of Palestinian businessmen, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 29, 2014
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AFP
Last updated: May 5, 2014

Abbas and Hamas chief to hold first talks since unity deal

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held "positive" talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Doha Monday in the first meeting since their rival movements signed a surprise unity deal last month.

The meeting began at 0900 GMT shortly after Abbas held talks with Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, a senior Palestinian official told AFP in Ramallah.

"Abbas and Meshaal held a long meeting this afternoon in Doha to discuss the latest Palestinian developments, including the reconciliation agreement and creating a positive atmosphere in which to achieve it," a Hamas statement said.

"The meeting was positive, with both leaders expressing a serious willingness to turn over a new leaf, based on national partnership," it added.

The exiled Hamas chief has been headquartered in Doha for more than two years after leaving his previous base in Damascus because of the Syrian civil war.

The last time the two leaders met face-to-face was in Cairo in January 2013.

Abbas's Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has been locked in years of bitter rivalry with Meshaal's Hamas that climaxed when the Islamist movement seized Gaza in 2007, confining Abbas's forces to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Earlier reconciliation efforts have failed, but on April 23, the PLO and Hamas announced a deal under which they would work together to form a new government of political independents.

Hamas said it might incorporate some 3,000 members of the Palestinian Authority's security forces to help police Gaza on a temporary basis.

"There is a clause addressing the security situation, including... administrative arrangements for 3,000 members of Ramallah's security apparatus to work as part of Gaza security," Hamas government secretary Abdel Salam Siyyam said in a statement on Sunday.

He said the move would be for an "interim period," without saying how long it would be.

News of the April deal provoked an angry response from Israel, which said it would not negotiate with any Palestinian government backed by Hamas, putting the final nail in the coffin of the latest round of US-brokered peace talks.

But an Israeli general on Monday said the deployment of security forces loyal to Abbas in Gaza could help prevent rocket and other attacks, given the close coordination between Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

"I welcome this agreement, which could bring about change, even positive results, notably in terms of limiting terrorist acts," Brigadier General Micky Edelstein, who is in charge of the army's Gaza division, told army radio.

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