Tuesday 24 October 2017

Hamas ends decade-long feud with ballot offer

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mohamed el Sherif in Cairo

Militant Palestinian group Hamas has agreed steps towards resolving a decade-long split with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah, announcing it would dissolve a body seen as a rival government and was ready to hold elections.

The Islamist group, which has ruled Gaza since a brief Palestinian civil war in 2007, said it had taken "a courageous, serious and patriotic decision to dissolve the administrative committee" that runs the territory of two million people, and hand power to some form of unity government.

Reunification a decade after Hamas and Abbas's secular Fatah movement battled for control of Gaza may hinge on whether complex issues related to power-sharing - which stymied reconciliation bids in the past - can be resolved.

Mr Abbas welcomed Hamas's move - a result of talks mediated by Egypt - and said he would convene the Palestinian leadership for discussions on his return from New York where he was attending the UN.

The development would "enable the formation of a national reconciliation government to work in the Gaza Strip and hold ... elections," he said.

Earlier, a Palestinian government spokesman said Cairo's mediation had presented a "historic opportunity" that could help Palestinians towards full statehood.

But Fatah said it still needed clarification from Hamas on the handing over of government ministries in Gaza and control of the enclave's border crossings with Israel and Egypt.

Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation administration but could not agree on the details. A unity government formed after Hamas won the last Palestinian general election, in 2006, was short-lived.

Aiming to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, Mr Abbas cut payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to the enclave, leading to power provided for less than four hours on some days, and never more than six hours a day.

Azzam Al-Ahmad, who headed Fatah's delegation to the talks in Cairo, said: "This step will enhance the unity of the Palestinians and end ugly division."

The two parties did not meet at the talks, which took the form of shuttle-diplomacy with Egyptian officials mediating. Mr Ahmad said the two sides planned to meet face-to-face but could not say when.

Irish Independent

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