Fatah, Hamas Begin Cairo Talks ahead of Palestinian Polls

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Key Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas opened talks Monday in Cairo aimed at clearing the way for the first elections in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006, Egypt’s state television said.

“The national dialogue sessions are underway in Cairo under the auspices of (Egyptian) President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” it reported.

Before his departure to Cairo, Fatah’s delegation head Jibril Rajub was upbeat, telling AFP: “We are confident we will overcome any obstacles in going ahead with legislative elections slated for May 22.”

On the agenda figure thorny issues such as judicial and security arrangements for the vote and the fate of Palestinian voters in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The polls will be the first Palestinian parliamentary elections in 15 years.

The Islamist movement Hamas won an unexpected landslide in the last vote, a victory not recognised by president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah, leading to bloody clashes the following year and a split in Palestinian governance.

Fatah has run the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Hamas has held power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, the year Israel imposed a devastating blockade on the Mediterranean enclave.

The divide has left the Palestinian territories under two different political systems and without a functioning parliament.

Fourteen Palestinian political groups are taking part in the sessions sponsored by Egypt, as it seeks to leverage its regional clout.

The talks come on the same day as an emergency Arab League meeting, also held in Cairo, to discuss the Palestinian cause.

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