Leaders of Palestinian group Fatah have ruled out any reconciliation with sacked member Mohammed Dahlan, a rival to President Mahmoud Abbas, amid reports of Russian efforts to heal the rift within the movement.
Fatah, led by Abbas, is the largest faction in the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
A member of Fatah’s top Central Committee, Dahlan was sacked by the Palestinian group in 2011. He is currently residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In 2016, Dahlan was sentenced by a special anti-graft court to three years in prison for embezzling $16 million during his tenure as Security Affairs Coordinator for the Palestinian Presidency.
Dahlan is also wanted by Turkey for his involvement in the 2016 defeated coup.
Reports emerged last week that Russia was mediating to heal the rift between Dahlan and Fatah leaders.
Dimitri Diliani, a former Fatah leader who is close to Dahlan, said in an interview with Anadolu Agency that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was seeking to end the "Fatah rift" between Dahlan allies and Fatah.
Lavrov met Dahlan last week in Moscow.
Diliani said the meeting took place upon a Russian invitation during which internal reconciliation in Fatah and Hamas-Fatah rift were discussed.
Diliani indicated that Dahlan immediately announced his "readiness for internal reconciliation."
Abbas' visit to Russia
Abbas is scheduled to visit Russia on Nov. 23 for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and senior officials there.
This visit is "important because of the Russian role at the regional and international levels,” Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, told Anadolu Agency.
He, however, said that internal reconciliation within Fatah was not on Abbas’ agenda during his visit to Moscow.
"We reject any interference in this file, and this is an internal matter that is not discussed with the Russians,” the Fatah leader said. “An official and judicial decision has (already) been taken against Dahlan."
Zaki said Fatah’s doors “are open to everyone”, but warned that his movement is “not a market in which the goods of the UAE are promoted”, in reference to the Emirati support for Dahlan.
No chance for Dahlan
Azzam al-Ahmad, another member of Fatah’s Central Committee, termed the reports about Russian mediation between the movement and Dahlan as “empty talk.”
“There are no contacts with the Russians in this regard,” al-Ahmad said, adding that Fatah will “reject” the offer if it is tabled.
Fatah spokesman Hussein Hamayel also rebuffed the possibility of Dahlan’s return to Fatah.
“There is no return for Dahlan to the movement," Hamayel said. "Those who are outside Fatah will remain outside it, and those who are in it are united.”
The spokesman said Abbas’ visit to Russia aims at serving the Palestinian people and “activating their cause."
Al-Qudwa remains hopeful
Nasser al-Qudwa, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, was sacked by the group in March following his attempt to field a separate list of candidates in the May 22 legislative elections. The polls were later postponed.
Al-Qudwa, who is the nephew of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, told Anadolu Agency that he welcomes efforts towards achieving internal reconciliation but insisted that these efforts should be without preconditions.
"I am in favor of internal reconciliation, but on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions, and that we begin to develop a political program and restructure the movement," he said.
Al-Qudwa confirmed that previous contacts were made with the Russians in this regard, but noted they have been momentarily paused.
But Hamayel insisted that there will be no reconciliation with al-Qudwa too.
A political and geographical division has prevailed in the Palestinian territories since 2007 after Hamas won legislative elections a year earlier.
Fatah has since ruled the West Bank, while Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. Many efforts have failed to end the rift between the two rival movements.