x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hamas and Fatah to form unity government, official claims

Rivals agree on key issues such as political prisoners.

JERUSALEM // In a sign that their troubled reconciliation may be progressing, Hamas and Fatah have reportedly agreed to form a unity government.

The rival Palestinian factions decided during recent meetings in Cairo to swear in a cabinet of political independents by the end of January 2012, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told the Palestinian Maan news agency yesterday.

He added that officials from both sides also agreed on a number of other key issues, such as releasing political prisoners held in each other's jails and forming a committee to oversee national elections planned for May.

Fatah has yet to confirm signing up to the recently struck agreements.

The two sides have failed to overcome many differences since penning a landmark reconciliation accord in May, and a number of divisive issues still seem poised to hamper progress. It did not touch on the contentious issue of Hamas joining the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is tasked with conducting peace negotiations with Israel. It also is unclear whether an agreement has been reached on the position of prime minister in a unity government.

Fatah's chairman and the Palestinian Authority (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas, has insisted on keeping Prime Minister Salam Fayyad under a unity government.

But Hamas has rejected Mr Fayyad and demanded that someone from Gaza fill the position.

The two sides did agree on forming a nine-member committee comprised of independent Palestinians from both the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and PA-run West Bank, Mr Barhoum said.

The head of the committee is Hanna Nasser, a former president of the West Bank's Birzeit University.

Mr Abbas is expected to examine the proposed election committee in the coming days.

Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organisation, has opposed Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

Shortly after the May accord was brokered, its finance minister, Yuval Steinitz withheld about US$90 million (Dh330m) in tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA.

hnaylor@thenational.ae


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