MOSCOW, August 4 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian senator said on Tuesday a historic meeting of the Palestinian movement Fatah could take the region out of the current deadlock and help ease tensions with Israel.
Some 2,000 delegates and hundreds of guests gathered in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday for a festive political conference expected to elect new Fatah leadership and draw up principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, Israel's Ynet website said.
"The Fatah congress should help the Palestinian [National Authority] overcome political disagreements that it has been unable to overcome for more than four years," Mikhail Margelov, who heads the Russian upper house's international affairs committee, told RIA Novosti.
The meeting is being held amid an internal power struggle within Fatah for membership in the movement's supreme institutions.
The Russian senator urged the radical and conservative wings within Fatah to develop a common stance on foreign and domestic policies, adding that unity would help the congress tackle key regional problems.
"Only standing together can Fatah claim political leadership, successfully complete talks with Hamas and continue implementing peace initiatives as part of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement," Margelov said.
Addressing the sixth congress of Fatah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed Israel, which he said "is denying all of its commitments," according to Ynet.
He also labeled Hamas members in the Gaza Strip who had threatened to prevent Fatah delegates from joining the conference as "the princes of darkness, who are dividing the homeland and the people and harming democracy."
Israel has maintained an almost continual blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power from the Fatah movement in June 2007. The 1.5 million Gaza residents suffer from severe shortages of medicine, food and fuel.