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China hosts Hamas, Fatah delegations for reconciliation talks

The meeting follows a Hamas official's statement that the movement was ready to join the PLO.
Jade Gao/Getty Images

Representatives of the rival Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions are scheduled to meet in China on Friday for discussions on Palestinian reconciliation amid expanding talks about the management of post-war Gaza.

The delegations arrived in Beijing late on Thursday upon the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Beirut-based al-Liwaa news outlet reported.

The Hamas delegation is led by the deputy head of its political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, and includes other senior officials such as Khalil al-Hayya and Hossam Badran.

Fatah dispatched Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the movement’s Central Committee as well as the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Samir al-Rifai, also a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Palestinian sources told the Arab World Press news agency.

The sources stated that the main issue on the table during Friday’s meeting will be the end of the Palestinian division.

Fatah spokesperson Munir al-Jaghoub confirmed the meeting to the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya channel, but said he does not expect any final decision to result from the talks.

Hamas and China have yet to comment on the reported meeting.

Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 after ousting the Fatah-affiliated government in heavy clashes between the military wings of the two parties. The takeover left the Palestinian territories divided into two entities: a Hamas-run government in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority running the West Bank. Since then, all mediation attempts by regional actors, mainly Egypt, have failed to end the Palestinian division.

Efforts to achieve reconciliation have intensified since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in Gaza in October, as Washington is pushing for a reformed PA to take over Gaza’s governance after the war.

Friday’s meeting coincides with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing this week. Blinken met on Friday with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and discussed various issues including US-Chinese relations, China’s support for Russia and Taiwan.

China’s regional role

China's role in the region has been growing, particularly since it successfully brokered the March 2023 agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the resumption of their diplomatic ties. Nonetheless, the country has been treading lightly on the ongoing issues in the Middle East as it attempts to strike a balanced role between the various actors.

Since the onset of the Gaza war, China has called for a cease-fire and expressed support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the two-state solution. It has also condemned acts of violence against civilians but stopped short of condemning Hamas.

Last month, Chinese diplomat Wang Kejian embarked on a regional tour with stops in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. During his visit to Qatar, Kejian met with the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, in the first public encounter between officials from China and the Palestinian movement since the war in October.

Hamas floats idea of joining PLO

The Hamas-Fatah meeting in Beijing on Friday comes a day after Khalil al-Hayya, a leading member of Hamas’ political bureau, said his movement was ready to join the PLO to form a unified government in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

In an interview in Istanbul with the Associated Press published on Thursday, Hayya also expressed Hamas’ readiness to disarm and transition into a political party on the condition that an independent Palestinian state is established along the pre-1967 borders.

He added that Hamas would accept “a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with the international resolutions.”

The PLO is an umbrella organization that includes almost all Palestinian factions. The organization was formed in 1964 during an Arab League Summit in Cairo in 1964 and has engaged in armed activities against Israel with the aim to achieve Palestinian self-determination and secure the return of refugees. In 1993, the PLO renounced its militant role and recognized Israel’s rights to exist.

The PLO is now internationally recognized as the representative of the Palestinian people. It is also headed by Abbas.