by Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Senior Palestinian officials revealed on Wednesday that Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia, will exert efforts to help rival leaders of Fatah party and Hamas movement achieve an inter-Palestinian reconciliation ahead of the Arab summit, due to kick off in Libya on March 27.
Amin Maqboul, secretary general of President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah party's Revolutionary Council, told Xinhua that "several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, are exerting intensive efforts to bridge gaps between Fatah and Hamas to achieve the reconciliation and end the current division."
In October last year, Egypt, which sponsors the inter- Palestinian dialogue, drafted a reconciliation pact that called for ending Palestinian feuds, reforming security apparatuses in the West Bank and Gaza, and holding general presidential and legislative elections on June 28.
Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip by force in June 2007 after routing Abbas' Fatah forces, refused to sign the Egyptian document, saying it has reservations that need to be discussed first. Fatah, for its part, said it approved the pact and was ready to sign.
Egypt, therefore, decided to postpone the national Palestinian dialogue until the Islamic movement announces it is ready to sign the reconciliation pact. Cairo insists that signing of the pact should take place first, and then reservations raised by the Palestinian factions would be considered as it is put into effective.
So far, all Arab and Palestinian efforts to bring the two rival groups to ending their feuds and reunite had failed.
However, Maqboul said that Arab efforts were initiated two weeks ago to bridge the gaps between the two groups and bring them to sign the reconciliation pact before the Arab summit.
The annul Arab summit is slated for March 27 in the Libyan city of Sirte. The get-together might be attended by an official Palestinian delegation and a delegation representing the Syrian- based Palestinian opposition groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
"Fatah movement supports all the efforts that aim at reaching a reconciliation agreement, because it would be serving the higher interests of the Palestinian people," said Maqboul, adding "but so far, there are no tangible results."
Maqboul ruled out that the Palestinian reconciliation would be achieved within the coming three days ahead of the Arab summit, " or even after the conclusion of the summit, because Hamas leaders are still refusing to sign the pact before having their reservations considered."
Meanwhile, Sami Abu Zuhri, the Gaza-based Hamas spokesman, confirmed that there are Arab efforts, contacts and meetings led by Saudi Arabia, telling Xinhua that "Hamas expresses hope that the gaps would be narrowed among the Palestinian factions, mainly between Fatah and Hamas."
"So far, we can't talk about any positive results out of these efforts," Abu Zuhri said. However, Hamas sources earlier on Tuesday said that Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal visited Saudi Arabia this week and met with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al- Faisal.
In Gaza, meanwhile, representatives from about 100 non- governmental organizations signed a letter to the Arab summit in Libya calling on Arab leaders "to do their best to end the Palestinian division and achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas."
Amjad al-Shawa, secretary general of the Palestinian NGOs network read the letter before reporters in Gaza, saying "since reaching an inter-Palestinian reconciliation is the only choice left for the Palestinians, we call on the Arab States to work towards achieving it in order to confront the Israeli challenges."
The right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided to build hundreds of settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem, while Jewish groups re-constructed an old Jewish synagogue which is only a few hundred meters far from al- Aqsa Mosque, the third holy site for Muslims.
"We call on the Arab leaders to take measures during the summit that aim to deter Israel and oblige it to end all its measures and settlement expansions in the West Bank and Jerusalem," said the letter. "We also call on the Arab leaders to do their best to achieve the Palestinian reconciliation soon."
Achieving a Palestinian reconciliation soon would likely to end Hamas' control over the Gaza Strip, that would help end about three years of Israeli blockade imposed on the impoverished enclave.