Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fatah and Hamas have reached an agreement to form a Palestinian national unity government before June following the re-launch of reconciliation efforts on Tuesday, according to reports in the local Arab press.
Delegations from the two sides met in Gaza on Tuesday to find a mechanism to implement previous agreements between the two sides. The renewed efforts come as US-brokered peace talks between the Palestinian government and Israel falter ahead of an April 29 deadline.
Palestine’s Ma’an News Agency reported that Palestinian factions have reached an agreement over the terms of a reconciliation deal and will announce the details later on Wednesday.
The Palestine Liberation Organization delegation, led by senior Fatah party leader Azam Al-Ahmed, met with Hamas government prime minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza. Local reports said that Hamas deputy leader Musa Abu Marzuq was also present, while the Fatah delegation included independent MP Mustafa Barghouti and representatives of the Left-wing Palestinian People’s Party and the Palestinian Arab Front.
Initial reports on the talks were scarce, but Agence France-Presse reported that the Hamas and Fatah delegation discussed the formation of a “national unity” government and forthcoming elections.
Speaking before the start of negotiations, the Fatah delegation head told Palestine’s Ma’an News Agency: “We are going to Gaza not to propose new suggestions, but rather to carry out a clear mission which is to end the state of disagreement and address three decisive issues.”
“We are going to address the formation of a national consensus government, elections and restructuring the PLO in order to maintain Palestinian unity so we can dedicate our efforts to confronting Israeli occupation,” he said.
The reconciliation negotiations coincided with a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli peace negotiators in Jerusalem, seeking to extend talks over a framework agreement beyond the April 29 deadline.
Abbas on Tuesday told Israeli reporters that he would be willing to extend the peace talks beyond the April 29 deadline, but only if Tel Aviv agrees to a three-month settlement freeze and releases the final batch of Palestinian prisoners, something that was supposed to have taken place last month.
Abbas said he would be willing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at anytime, in any place.”
Meanwhile, the PLO’s Central Committee is set to discuss the fate of the Palestinian Authority and reconciliation with Hamas, in its meeting on Saturday.
Most analysts do not believe that Abbas will follow through on a threat to dissolve the Authority if the peace talks fail. Abbas reportedly told several Knesset members last Wednesday that if the peace talks fail to produce a result, he would call on Tel Aviv to assume responsibility for administering the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked the Palestinian Authority, accusing it of having no desire for peace.
Netanyahu said: “Today, we saw the Palestinian Authority speak of dismantling itself and also talking about unity with Hamas. They should decide–either dissolve, or enter into a union with Hamas. When they want peace, they should let us know. Because we want a genuine peace.”
The United States meanwhile warned against dissolving the Palestinian Authority. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the dissolution of the Authority would constitute an “extreme step” that would “obviously have grave implications.”
“We, the United States, have put millions of dollars into this effort. It would obviously have very serious implications for our relationship, including our assistance going forward,” she said.
“A great deal of effort has gone into building Palestinian institutions, by Palestinians, as well as by the international community. It would certainly not be in the interest of the Palestinian people for all of that to be lost,” she added.