SAN'A, Yemen - Fatah and Hamas agreed Sunday on the goal of uniting in a single Palestinian government but failed to resolve the crucial question of how the rival factions should share power.
After five days of talks using Yemeni officials as intermediaries, the West Bank-based Fatah government met face-to-face with representatives of the Hamas militants who seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.
The two sides signed a declaration that both accept a Yemeni initiative calling for the creation of a national unity government and the rebuilding of security forces loyal to that government instead of factions.
Fatah insists that Hamas must give up power in Gaza as part of any reconciliation deal. Hamas counters that Fatah must restore Hamas to a position of power in the West Bank as well as Gaza.
The accord signed in San'a appeared to lean toward the Fatah version by calling simply for a national unity government in Gaza and the West Bank.
Fatah said the plan should be implemented, but Hamas said it was just the basis for more dialogue.
"Resuming dialogue in the future will be only to implement the Yemeni initiative in all its articles," President Mahmoud Abbas said, according to his aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh.
Hamas retorted almost immediately that the initiative by Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh was all about dialogue and could not be implemented immediately.
"Not a single article of the Yemeni initiative can be implemented without coming to an understanding — there should be a dialogue since practically speaking (the immediate implementation) you demand cannot take place," Hamas delegation head Moussa Abu Marzouk said at a press conference in San'a.
Disgruntled by years of inefficient and corrupt rule by Fatah, Palestinians handed a sweeping election victory to Hamas in early 2006. Hamas formed a government for the West Bank and Gaza, but the world boycotted it, labeling Hamas a terror group.
Facing bankruptcy, Hamas was forced to bring Fatah back into a national unity government, but even that did not satisfy the world. After the Gaza takeover, Abbas dismissed the unity government and its Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh from Gaza, and installed his own government in the West Bank.
The West has embraced Abbas' new team while maintaining a boycott of Hamas in Gaza. The mediation efforts are meant to rescue Gaza from a severe economic crisis by getting Hamas to renounce its control of Gaza, hand back the control of the Mediterranean strip to the Palestinian Authority and restore a power sharing national unity government, ending the Western sanctions.
But Hamas is not willing to give up the power it wields. Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu called Sunday on Abbas to fire his current prime minister Salam Fayyad and his ministers, to pave the way for a "constructive and sincere dialogue."
Saleh said the Palestinian talks would resume in April.
"This is the first round of talks and we will help Fatah and Hamas to reach agreement in the interest of the Palestinian people," he said.
He didn't set a specific date, but Palestinian officials close to the talks said the meeting would likely come as early as April 5.