Abbas meeting Hamas chief in Cairo

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

The Palestinian president is to meet the Hamas leader today in Cairo to discuss the future of co-operation between the two rival groups.

The summit between President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal is their first meeting since a power-sharing agreement was forged in May. However, that reconciliation deal, despite being praised at the time, has largely stalled, with disputes over who would lead a unity government and with the Palestinian leadership focused on its UN recognition bid.

Mr Abbas and Mr Mashaal are expected to discuss ways to resolve the obstacles to a unity deal between Hamas and Fatah.

In advance of the talks Hamas said its position on not recognising Israel would remain the same even if a unity government were established, which could jeopardise the Palestinian Authority's relationship with the US and EU. The EU's longstanding position is that it will not engage with Hamas unless it recognises Israel and forgoes terrorism.

"Israel…will remain our enemy," said Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel. "Hamas won't recognise Israel and won't give up its principles."

Gutt Ratter, an EU official, said that he did not have high expectations of today's talks. "I believe there is a very low probability the meeting will lead to an agreement on a new government," he said.

Last updated: 11:27am, November 24 2011