Saudi Arabia meets Egyptians on Palestinian talks

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt Tue Jan 5, 2010 11:22am EST

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia briefed Egypt on Tuesday on talks it held with the leader of Hamas on any reconciliation with rival Palestinian group Fatah, but indicated it was unlikely to host further such discussions.

After brokering an agreement between the groups in 2007 and hosting Khaled Meshaal on Sunday, analysts said they expected Saudi Arabia to play a central role in the process to hold Palestinian elections and forge a unified government.

Meshaal said after Sunday's talks he was in the final stages of reconciling with Fatah, which controls the West Bank and is led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The reconciliation file is totally in the hands of the Egyptian brothers," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said during a news conference he gave on Tuesday from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Prince Saud said he did not get Meshaal's agreement to sign the reconciliation deal Egypt proposed a year ago after the Israeli assault on Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

Egypt has been hosting talks between Hamas and Fatah to try to push the two parties toward a deal, but Sunday's visit was the first known meeting between Saudi and Hamas officials since Saudi Arabia brokered the Mecca Agreement in 2007.

Before Tuesday's talks, Nabil Abdel Fattah, an Egyptian analyst in al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, said: "Saudi Arabia will have a role in the internal disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas."

As well as being involved in regional discussions over the possible resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia has been increasingly focused on neighboring Yemen, whose government has launched a major offensive against al Qaeda.

Violence has also flared on the Yemen-Saudi border area, where Shi'ite rebels waging a revolt against the central Yemen government said a series of Saudi air strikes on a market had flattened shops and homes, killing two people.

Egypt said it backed Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The past week has seen several visits and discussions between Arab and Palestinian leaders and Israeli officials that could indicate a resumption of the deadlocked peace talks, as well as a potential agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

On Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed an Egyptian-hosted summit with Abbas. Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan visited Egypt on Monday.

(Writing by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Alison Williams and Noah Barkin)

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