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Abbas envoys arrive in Hamas-controlled Gaza for talks

RIA Novosti

17/06/2008 19:05 GAZA, June 17 (RIA Novosti) - A high-level PNA and Fatah delegation arrived on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip to lay the groundwork for reconciliation with Hamas, which seized control of the territory a year ago.

The delegation is led by Hikmat Zeid, an envoy to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The visit is yet another sign of rapprochement between the two rival movements, which agreed two weeks ago to start talks on restoring Palestinian unity without any preconditions.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abou Zuhri told RIA Novosti that the visit had been approved by Hamas.

"We are ready for dialogue and are waiting for concrete proposals. The main thing now is to talk not just through the media but to sit down at the negotiating table," he said.

Abbas, who is also the leader of Fatah, has called for dialogue with Hamas for the first time since the hard-line Islamic movement seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007. He has also said that he is ready to call early presidential and parliamentary elections if an agreement is reached. Hamas, in turn, unconditionally agreed on a resumption of peace talks.

However, Abbas' aides have since said that Hamas must cede the Gaza Strip before any talks can be launched.

In 2004, Abbas was elected to succeed the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, but lost the 2006 parliamentary elections to Hamas. A year later, Hamas seized control of Gaza. In response, Abbas established his own government in the West Bank.

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