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Mar 20, 9:26 AM EDT

Egyptian, Palestinian leaders meet for reconciliation talks



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CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian and Palestinian leaders held talks in Cairo on Monday in what Egyptian media reports have called a "reconciliation" meeting.

Relations between Cairo and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been tense over a range of issues, including Egypt's contacts with Gaza's Hamas rulers and other factions that are at odds with Abbas' Palestinian Authority.

Relations further soured in December when Egypt withdrew a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council against Israeli settlements. The draft was later resubmitted by other council members and adopted.

Cairo's relations with Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas rival who is seen as one of the front-runners to eventually replace the 81-year-old Palestinian leader, has heightened tensions. Dahlan, a lawmaker and Gaza native, is a frequent visitor to Egypt, where he regularly meets with officials.

Osama Qawasmeh, a spokesman for Abbas' mainstream Fatah faction, told the Voice of Palestine radio on Monday that relations with Cairo have been "a little bit cold" recently, but the time was right to "restore this very important and strategic relationship."

Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, has for decades been closely involved in efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. It fought Israel in four full-fledged wars between 1948 and 1973 before it became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Egypt has forged closer ties with Israel since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi led the military overthrow of an Islamist president in 2013, and the two cooperate closely on security matters, especially efforts to combat militants in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The meeting between el-Sissi and Abbas took place less than two weeks before a scheduled Arab summit in Jordan which, according to Arab media reports and Palestinian officials, has been mediating between Abbas and the Egypt.

Neither leader spoke to reporters after their meeting in Cairo.

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Associated Press reporter Mohammad Daraghmeh contributed to this report from Ramallah, West Bank.

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