South African NGO brings together Palestinian factions for unity talks


CAPE TOWN, South Africa (JTA) — An initiative geared towards creating Palestinian unity is taking place in South Africa this week.

A conflict resolution non-governmental organization, In Transition Initiative, is hosting Palestinians from across the political spectrum to “hammer out their differences and forge a common political vision for the future,” in partnership with the Institute for Palestine in South Africa, according to the Cape Times.

This is the second intra-Palestinian dialogue to be organized by the NGO in the country this year.

“No other country has invited us to engage in dialogue among ourselves; it is only to South Africa that we would go to do that,” Dr. Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian figure in Fatah and former chief negotiator for the Palestinians during peace talks with the Israelis, told Independent Media. Shaath was due to meet the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, as well as Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress.

In 1991, the Patriotic Front brought together the South African liberation movements to establish a common approach toward negotiations prior to democracy in 1994.

“I cannot think of a good enough reason why we haven’t already signed a co-operation agreement between Fatah and Hamas,” Shaath said. This will hopefully lead to the resolution of three basic issues which divide the Palestinian factions: the payment of Palestinian government workers, national elections and a common political program, he said.

In 2007, Hamas staged a bloody seizure of power in the Gaza Strip, executing dozens of Fatah men. The Islamist Hamas movement has often accused Fatah, which has for years governed the West Bank without a democratic mandate, of betraying the Palestinian cause because of its cooperation with Israel.

Fatah has accused Hamas, a Sunni group, of being a pawn in the hands of foreign powers, including the Shi’ite Islamic Republic of Iran.

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