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The two leading Palestinian factions are attempting to launch a new era today. The factions, Fatah and Hamas, signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo, as part of an effort to end years of bitter feuding. The upheaval sweeping the Arab world encouraged the two sides to work out a deal, though there is still plenty of skepticism about whether it will work. NPR's Jackie Northam has our report.
JACKIE NORTHAM: Those efforts failed because critical and difficult issues could not be resolved. But Azzam Al Ahmad, the leader of the Fatah delegation to the negotiations here in Cairo, says this deal may - just may - stand a fighting chance.
AZZAM AL AHMAD: (Through translator) Definitely, there is hope. If there was no hope, we wouldn't have been able to sign. In my opinion, it should have been done a long time ago. The general lines of the deal will help end the division between Palestinians. It will prove that we are a united people.
NORTHAM: Hamas negotiator, Moussa Abu Marzouk, says unifying the two factions could also help Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority's efforts to secure a resolution recognizing statehood by the United Nations general assembly in September.
MOUSSA ABU MARZOUK: (Through translator) The fact that there has been division between the Palestinians would hinder him in his effort. The other reason to come together, is because Arab-Israeli peace negotiations are at a dead end.
NORTHAM: But there are many pressing issues that still have to be resolved. One of those is security. Each side has its own security apparatus. Fatah, in the West Bank, coordinates with the Israeli military - anathema to the Islamist militants of Hamas, whose militia controls Gaza. The agreement calls for the unification of the two security groups. But Moussa Abu Marzouk, of Hamas, says that won't happen immediately.
ABU MARZOUK: (Through translator) There's an agreement that, for the next year, everything will stay as it is until the general elections. The Palestinian Authority can keep its security forces in the West Bank and Hamas can keep its forces in the Gaza Strip. After the elections, we can address the issue, whoever wins will take over all the security.
NORTHAM: Yasser al Wadeya, the president of the Consortium of Independent Palestinians who helped broker the agreement, acknowledges the problems that lie ahead.
YASSER AL WADEYA: Things are not, to be honest, 100 percent as we planned. I mean when we are talking about reconciliation, it is not that easy as people, they think. Don't forget four years of the division caused a lot of harmful issues for the Palestinian people. Now we need to work 24/7 to at least just fix up what was messed up between Fatah and Hamas.
NORTHAM: Jackie Northam NPR news Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.