RAMALLAH: A senior Palestinian official said Wednesday the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers will arrive in Egypt on Nov. 8 to meet and assess progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting s date has not been announced, said the gathering in Egypt would include US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The aim is to hear the progress Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have made in their talks. The so-called Quartet is made up of the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia.
Rice had asked Egypt to host the meeting before President Bush s term ends in January. Bush hosted a peace conference in Annapolis, Md., a year ago and has expressed hope for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before year s end.
Separately, Nabil Shaath, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Abbas will go to Egypt for the Nov. 9 start of power-sharing talks with Hamas. Abbas has shunned Hamas since the group seized the Gaza Strip by force in 2007.
The Quartet is expected to meet sometime around that date.
Hamas and Fatah are to talk about forming a joint Palestinian government, rebuilding the security forces and setting a date for presidential and legislative elections.
Several rounds of power-sharing talks have failed since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006. Egypt has been mediating contacts between the rival groups.
The head of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip announced on Thursday the imminent release of political prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of Palestinian reconciliation talks in Egypt.
I would like to announce in the name of the government that in order to prepare the ground for dialogue, our government has decided to respond favorably to calls for the release of political detainees, said Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza.
Hamas spokesman Hamas Taher Al-Nunu told AFP there are no more than about 20 political prisoners in Gaza and that all of them should be freed on Thursday. -Agencies