In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the administration would wait and see what the accord means in practical terms but warned, “It’s important now that Palestinians ensure implementation of that agreement in a way that advances the prospects of peace rather than undermines them.”
Meshal said the Palestinians were “ready to give an additional chance” to peace efforts though Israel had consistently rejected them. He said Hamas was prepared to work with Fatah to guide both Palestinian diplomacy and “resistance in all its forms.”
He added that Hamas shared the goal of establishing “a Palestinian state, independent and completely sovereign, on the lands of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital, Jerusalem, without a single settler, without conceding a single inch and without conceding the right of return” of Palestinian refugees to their former homes in Israel.
“We are ready and we have resolved to pay any price to complete the reconciliation and turn the words into reality on the ground,” Meshal said.
Both factions must hammer out the details of sharing power: choosing a government and prime minister, organizing the elections and the vote for the PLO council, and melding rival security forces that fought each other when Hamas seized control of Gaza.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority will continue to handle security in the West Bank, and Hamas will do the same in the Gaza Strip. The two sides are to form a joint security committee that will oversee current operations and chart future steps.
“There will only be one gun for one authority,” Abbas said.
An additional challenge will be ending hostile policies after a rift during which both sides exchanged harsh verbal attacks, shut down each other’s offices and imprisoned their rivals. Releasing the prisoners, an element of the agreement, could prove to be another bone of contention.
The long-awaited accord was prompted by the upheavals sweeping the Arab world and street protests by Palestinians demanding unity, which raised concerns within both factions that the popular discontent could turn against them, too.
In addition, the uprising against the regime in Syria, which hosts the political leadership of Hamas, has left the organization uneasy about its future there and has drawn it to Egypt, which has signaled readiness to pursue closer ties with the Islamist group than existed under now-ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The accord also comes during an impasse in negotiations with Israel and amid efforts to secure recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September. With the peace talks at a standstill, analysts say, Abbas was freer to respond to popular pressure and pursue a rapprochement with Hamas. The resulting accord provides him with an effective mandate to represent all Palestinians, not only those in the West Bank.
Special correspondents Sufian Taha in Ramallah and Islam Abdel Kareem in Gaza contributed to this report.