Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh continued their discussions in the Islamic holy city of Mecca to make peace and reach understanding over disagreement on Israel and averting a civil war. Both sides pledged not to leave Saudi Arabia till they reached an agreement to end their bitter blood-letting. Haniyeh has been joined by Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
Faced with international sanctions that have bankrupted the Palestinian Authority over Hamas's refusal to honor earlier agreements with Israel, recognize the Jewish state to exist, and renounce violence, the two sides have blamed each other and got into an armed struggle. The meeting in Mecca and the earnestness of both parties to form a unity government has raised hopes that perhaps peace will return to the region. However, previous ceasefires had been broken and this time around, the peace has to find international guarantors perhaps in the form of Riyadh and Tehran signing up to stop the feud.
Earlier, Abbas had said that he would declare new elections to throw the Hamas out of power but Haniyeh had warned that it would tantamount to a coup. Later, Abbas warned that a failure of the Mecca talks will mean civil war which clearly all sides want to avoid.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that he would meet Abbas along with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on February 19 to review progress, restart stalled talks, and possibly lift sanctions. Early reports indicate that some sort of agreement is in the offing including recognition of earlier agreements with Israel.