Yasser Arafat's mainstream wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a rival faction that opposes the Middle East peace process moved toward reconciliation today as the Palestinian leader tries to build support for the final stages of negotiations with Israel.
Representatives of Arafat's Fatah faction and those of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine spoke optimistically after seven hours of talks here, their first encounter since Arafat signed a peace accord with Israel in Oslo in 1993. "It was a major success," said Salim Zanoun, a senior Fatah leader and speaker of the Palestine National Council.
The Popular Front has been a staunch opponent of the Oslo accord, but Abu Ali Moustafa, the front's senior negotiator here, said the pact must be dealt with as a political reality. "We made our point and they made theirs," he said. "There are some differences, but that's natural. We hope we will finalize a formula that will achieve the Palestinian national unity."
But in a sign that tensions remain, Popular Front leader George Habash stayed away from the meeting. Habash refuses to meet Arafat until Arafat concedes that revocation of the Palestine National Charter was a mistake, Moustafa said. In November, the Palestinians formally revoked parts of the charter that called for the destruction of Israel, a move mandated by the Oslo accord.