x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Palestinian Authority PM Fayyad quits after months of rancour

Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad were locked in an increasingly bitter dispute over the extent of the prime minister's authority.

Mahmoud Abbas, right, accepted the resignation of Salam Fayyad, left, as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority on Saturday. EPA
Mahmoud Abbas, right, accepted the resignation of Salam Fayyad, left, as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority on Saturday. EPA

RAMALLAH // The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, accepted Salam Fayyad's resignation as prime minister yesterday.

Mr Fayyad presented his resignation to Mr Abbas in a half-hour meeting. The president was expected to name a new prime minister within days, officials said.

"The president told Dr Salam Fayyad he accepted his resignation, and asked him to conduct the work of the government until a new government is formed," the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Mr Abbas and Mr Fayyad had been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute over the extent of the prime minister's authority. Mr Fayyad offered his resignation on Thursday, but Mr Abbas did not respond to his offer until yesterday.

His prime minister's departure could spell trouble for Mr Abbas. Mr Fayyad, a western-trained economist, is well respected in international circles, and he was expected to play a key role in US efforts to revive peace talks.

As part of that effort, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said he plans to announce a series of measures to boost the West Bank economy in the coming days. Mr Fayyad, a former official at the International Monetary Fund with expertise in development, would be key to overseeing such projects.

Mr Fayyad has served since mid-2007 as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, the self-rule government that administers about 40 per cent of the Israeli-controlled West Bank. The 61-year-old political independent has focused efforts on developing an independent Palestinian state.

A squeaky-clean public image and willingness to take on entrenched interests has often landed him in trouble with Mr Abbas's Fatah movement. The relationship between Mr Fayyad and Mr Abbas has been tense for some time, and the prime minister told Mr Abbas late last year that he wanted to quit.

Mr Abbas told Mr Fayyad repeatedly to wait. But the conflict between the two escalated last month over the resignation of Mr Fayyad's finance minister, Nabeel Kassis. Mr Fayyad accepted the resignation, but Mr Abbas then overruled the prime minister, effectively challenging his right to hire and fire cabinet ministers.

Mr Fayyad told confidants in recent days that he was determined to leave. The prime minister also complained about what he said was an attempt by leading Fatah members to undermine him.

Mr Fayyad has good ties with the US and is credited with cracking down on public corruption and securing foreign aid.

Backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid, Mr Fayyad has built roads and schools and promoted transparency in the government's finances. With the Palestinian Authority in a financial crisis, he has been criticised for the government not paying the salaries of teachers and civil servants on time.

Mr Fayyad has been in office since June 2007, following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas. Mr Fayyad's authority is largely limited to the West Bank, while Hamas continues to control Gaza.

* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse