RAMALLAH, West Bank, (Reuters) – The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) on Wednesday extended until further notice the tenure of Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority, PLO officials told Reuters.
Members of the PLO Central Council said Abbas, whose term ends on Jan. 25, will stay on until elections can be held, extending the tenure of the Western-backed leader who heads the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.
Presidential and legislative elections called for Jan. 24 were cancelled due to a ban imposed by the Islamist Hamas group on participation in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave, disputes Abbas’s legitimacy.
The PLO Central Council also decided to extend the term of the Palestinian Legislative Council — a dysfunctional parliament in which Hamas won a majority in 2006 elections.
The chamber, whose term also expires in January, has not met since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Abbas had repeatedly said he will not run again for the presidency but no date has been set for a future vote. “The president has decided to stay in his post,” Tawfiq al-Tirawi, a PLO Central Council member, told Reuters.
Hamas, which is not part of the PLO, has already declared as illegitimate any extension of the 74-year-old’s tenure.
The Central Council also decided there should be no resumption of peace talks with Israel until a full halt to its settlement building in the occupied West Bank, Tirawi said. “We will not go to negotiations until Israel fully halts settlement activities and agrees to a term of reference for such negotiations,” he said.
Abbas has been under pressure from the United States and the European Union to resume talks, frozen for the past year. He has said a partial, 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement building announced by Israel last month is not enough for a resumption of peace negotiations.
Abbas replaced Yasser Arafat as head of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority after his death in 2004.
Founded in 1964 and recognised internationally as the representative of the Palestinians, the PLO is dominated by the Fatah party. The PLO Central Council created the Palestinian Authority in 1993 under interim peace accords with Israel.