Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah made 'encouraging progress' in Beijing talks, says China

Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah made 'encouraging progress' in Beijing talks, says China
Hamas and Fatah made progress in recent talks in the Chinese capital which seek to reconcile the rival Palestinian groups, Beijing has said.
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People wave Palestinian, Hamas and Fatah flags during a march in support of Gaza in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus [Getty]

Representatives of rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah made "encouraging progress" in recent talks in the Chinese capital on promoting reconciliation, China's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian gave few details at a daily briefing, but the meeting in Beijing is China's latest attempt to position itself as a broker in the Middle East as an alternative to the U.S. and its Western allies, most often seen as backing Israel.

Lin said representatives of the two groups were invited by China and "recently came to Beijing to have an in-depth and candid dialogue on promoting Palestinian reconciliation." He said they "had discussions on many specific issues and made encouraging progress."

Gaza, run by Hamas, has been under an unprecedented Israeli offensive and siege since October 7, while Fatah’s rule of the occupied West Bank is under severe stress amid an expanding Israeli military and settler presence, and a morbid economy, heavily impacted by the Gaza war.

"The sides agreed to continue this dialogue process so as to achieve Palestinian solidarity and unity at an early date," Lin said.

"They highly appreciated China’s firm support for the just cause of the Palestinian people in restoring their legitimate national rights, thanked the Chinese side for its efforts to help strengthen Palestinian internal unity and reached an agreement on ideas for future dialogue," he said.

Hamas has said for more than 15 years that it could accept a two-state compromise with Israel, but has refused to say it would recognise Israel or renounce its armed fight against it.

The United States and European countries have joined Israel in shunning the Palestinian group, which they have labeled a terrorist organisation.

Ties between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction have long been fraught. In 2006, after Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections, it entered talks with the Palestinian Authority over a unity government. During the negotiations, Ismail Haniyeh, who is now Hamas' top political leader, said the group supported a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines "at this stage, but in return for a ceasefire, not recognition."

The two groups eventually reached a deal under which the unity government, including Hamas, would "respect" the Palestinian Authority’s peace agreements with Israel. It was a formula that allowed Hamas to avoid accepting the accords and recognising Israel.

Israel and the U.S. refused to recognise the unity government and imposed economic sanctions. The government quickly collapsed amid fighting between Hamas and Fatah, ending with Hamas' 2007 takeover of Gaza.

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China has long recognised a Palestinian state as part of its Cold War strategy to build ties with the developing world and undermine Western support for Israel. In recent years, however, it has sought to engage both sides, appointing a special envoy for Middle Eastern affairs to hold talks with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In March 2023, China also hosted talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran at which the two regional heavyweights agreed to restore diplomatic relations.

In other recent diplomatic developments, Hamas officials have left Cairo after talks with Egyptian officials on a new proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza, Egypt’s state-owned Al-Qahera News satellite channel said Tuesday.

The channel, which has close ties with Egyptian security agencies, said a Hamas delegation will return to Cairo with a written response to the ceasefire proposal, without saying when.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Israel on his latest trip to the region , which began Monday in Saudi Arabia. He said Israel needs to do more to allow aid to enter Gaza, but that the best way to alleviate the humanitarian crisis is for the two sides to agree to a ceasefire.