Beijing to host second Palestinian reconciliation meeting in June

Talks include prospects of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad joining the PLO

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping in June 2023. Getty
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Beijing is set to host Hamas, Fatah, and other Palestinian factions for a second reconciliation meeting in June, highlighting China’s growing desire to play a larger role in Middle East diplomacy.

At the end of April, two delegations, headed by Hamas political bureau member Musa Abu Marzouk and Fatah official Azzam Al Ahmad, met in the Chinese capital to discuss internal reconciliation.

The surprise meeting came as Palestinian parties discussed the future of the conflict with Israel, amid the devastating war on Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abdel Hadi, told The National on Wednesday that at the Beijing meeting “we discussed government, legislative elections, rebuilding and development of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation ] in preparation for the entry of Hamas and Islamic Jihad into it”.

No Palestinian presidential elections have been held since 2005.

In 2006, during the parliamentary elections, Hamas scored a significant victory, securing 74 out of 132 seats, and Ismail Haniyeh, head of the group's political bureau, subsequently formed the new government.

Internal conflicts and outside pressure led to tensions between Hamas and Fatah and the outbreak of clashes that ended with Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has shown a desire to join the Palestine Liberation Organisation, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, which is particularly difficult for mainstream Palestinian politicians to accept.

There are fears that if Hamas, which is designated as a terror organisation by several western countries, does join, it would undermine the PLO's decades-long recognition by the international community as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Positive atmosphere

Last year, reconciliation talks between rival factions in Cairo failed to achieve progress despite mounting pressure to present a united front against Israel.

However, Mr Abdel Hadi emphasised that “the atmosphere was positive” in Beijing.

“We agreed to hold another meeting on June 14 under the name Interim Leadership Framework to discuss what we have reached with Fatah and build on it.”

Palestinian sources close to Fatah told The National that President Abbas gave the green light to meet Hamas representatives in China, considering it a necessity in light of the war in Gaza.

Palestinian legislator Dimitri Diliani, a member of Fatah, stressed “the necessity for dialogue between everyone, solidarity, and unification of all efforts to defend Gaza”.

Mr Diliani, a spokesman for the National Reformist Movement of Fatah, called for the formation of a government that would have all executive powers in the West Bank and Gaza, while the position of president would be ceremonial.

Some Palestinian factions expect that China will not achieve much success in its mediation, considering that regional countries such as Egypt and Qatar, despite their significant influence on Palestinian affairs, have not succeeded in resolving the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas.

However, a diplomatic source in Beirut said that Beijing's success is “not unlikely”.

China does not consider Hamas a terrorist movement and has recognised the State of Palestine since 1988. Its interest in the Palestinian cause reflects Beijing's increasing desire to deal with the most important issues in the region.

“Who would have imagined that China would suddenly break the state of the cold war that existed between Tehran and Riyadh and succeed in turning a new page?” asked the diplomatic source.

Updated: May 16, 2024, 4:27 AM