CAIRO, April 27 (UPI) -- Leaders of Fatah and Hamas initialed an agreement Wednesday intended to resolve a four-year split between the rival Palestinian factions.
Speaking with reporters in Cairo, where they negotiated the agreement with the help of Egyptian mediators, leaders of the rival movements said Fatah and Hamas would cooperate in trying to form a government that would pave the way for elections in one year, The Washington Post reported.
The split has resulted in divided government for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The agreement follows a spring during which governments throughout the Mideast have been challenged by popular uprisings that have toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and threatened others in Syria and Libya.
The deal comes at a time when Palestinians are working toward gaining U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. The Post said many Palestinians regard ending the schism as a necessary step toward independence and the end of Israeli occupation.
The agreement could complicate Palestinian relations with the United States and Israel, the Post said, since Hamas is regarded by both allies as a terrorist organization.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking in a televised address Wednesday prior to the announcement of the agreement, said the Palestinian Authority must "choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas," The New York Times reported.
"Peace with both of them is impossible because Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so openly," Netanyahu said.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the Obama administration in Washington, while waiting for more information on the deal, still regarded Hamas as a terrorist organization and would not consider it a reliable partner in peace talks, the Times reported.