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Jun 4, 2010 | 17:17 GMT

3 mins read

Palestinian Territories: Obstacles to a Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation

A Fatah spokesman, Ahmed Assaf, criticized Hamas on June 4 for deliberately wasting the opportunity for reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian movements created by the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident. The Fatah official added that the secular Palestinian movement, which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian National Authority, had sent emissaries to Gaza to work for Palestinian unity. He said Hamas — which he accused of maintaining covert relations with a number of states in the region — refused to meet the emissaries, however. Though each Palestinian group would like to regain its position in the other side's turf, the flotilla incident has made reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah less likely. The Israeli assault on the Turkish-led aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip resulted in a partial lifting of the blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip when Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. This plus international condemnation of Israel has given the radical Islamist Palestinian movement a shot in the arm after years of political disillusionment in the Gaza Strip. In recent months, Hamas had signaled its readiness for progress reconciliation talks with Fatah, something it no longer feels the need for. Outside the Palestinian territories, Turkey would like to push the two sides toward reconciliation, which would show Ankara's usefulness to the United States. Syria and Iran, on the other hand, continue to pull Hamas away from reconciliation. Even more than Syria, Iran would like to see the Hamas-Fatah conflict continue. This strife allows Tehran to project power into the region, something it can use as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the United States and regional Arab states. On June 4, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al Assad spoke by telephone to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip. The conversation probably addressed how to deal with Turkey jumping into the fray, especially in light of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's forceful rejection of claims that Hamas is a terrorist organization. While Tehran and Damascus see Turkey's more aggressive stance toward Israel as a positive, neither is happy to see increasing Turkish influence over Hamas, and the two can be expected to try to limit Ankara's moves by maintaining the Fatah-Hamas split. Ultimately, whether Palestinian reconciliation proceeds depends upon whether Turkey can gain more influence over Hamas than the level of influence Syria and Iran have enjoyed thus far.

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