The governing Fatah party and Islamist group Hamas called on Egypt to extend its role in mediating the dialogue between two factions ahead of Palestinian parliamentary elections.

 

The aim of the talks, mediated by Egypt's deputy intelligence chief Mustafa Al-Bouheiri, was to draw a line under a growing dispute over moves to delay parliamentary polls scheduled for 17 July.

 

Aljazeera's Wail al-Dahduh reported that the two factions had asked for a further meeting at the Beach Hotel, in Gaza City.

 

The meeting is expected to be held on Friday afternoon with about 10 to 15 members from each side attending, the correspondent reported.

 

Such an extended meeting is unprecedented and indicates the movements' interest in reaching an agreement, he added. A second, shorter meeting will follow.

 

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Aljazeera that Hamas and Fatah would uphold national unity and solve their dispute peacefully.

 

"Palestinians can be assured that the state of tension has ended," he said.

 

"We have agreed to continue intensive talks, and we may hold a meeting on Saturday evening." 

 

Dialogue

 

Another Hamas official, Ismael Hanyeh, affirmed a commitment to dialogue.

 

"We have decided to solve our differences with our brothers from Fatah through dialogue, only through dialogue, and to try, therefore, to reduce the crisis and the tensions between our two movements," Hanyeh said.

 

"We have agreed to continue intensive talks and we may hold a meeting on Saturday evening"

Sami Abu Zuhri,
Hamas spokesman

"We are agreed to go to the courts for decisions on disputes over the results of recent municipal elections," he added.

  

A Fatah official said he regretted recent clashes after municipal elections.

 

"I confirm that we have decided to resolve all the conflicts between us through discussion, and I regret the clashes that followed after contested election results," said Fatah central committee member Abdallah Efranji.

 

Some officials think Hamas has partly engineered a recent spike in violence in the Gaza Strip as part of a dispute with Fatah over the elections.

 

On Wednesday, an aide said Palestinian President and Fatah stalwart Mahmoud Abbas would meet Hamas leaders in Cairo in early June to try to secure agreement on delaying the polls by more than four months.

 

Growing numbers within Fatah are thought to be in favour of a delay, alarmed by Hamas's impressive showing in recent municipal elections.

 

The Egyptian delegation has been in Gaza City since Tuesday on a mission to persuade the factions to abide by a truce agreement.

 

Announcement

 

Major General Mustafa al-Buhairi, head of the Egyptian delegation, is expected to issue a statement at the end of the meeting, assuring the Palestinian people that the crisis is almost over and announcing an imminent agreement of all disputed cases.

 

Mahmud al-Zahar (2R), a senior
delegate from Hamas

Sources have speculated that the meeting may result in an agreement between Fatah and Hamas stating the necessity of Hamas's participation in the partial repetition of the municipal elections in the three constituencies in Gaza.

 

However, even if no agreement has been announced, this meeting would add a new step towards reaching such an agreement under the supervision of the Egyptian delegation, in order to break the ice between Hamas and Fatah, the correspondent said.

  

Therefore, this meeting is viewed as a very important one, he added. The extension of the delegation's mission has been asked for by Hamas movement, the correspondent said.

 

This may represent a clear indication of Hamas' understanding of the tension that has been triggered and the developments that have taken place, he added.