Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Egyptian officials that incumbent Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is his only candidate to head the burgeoning Palestinian unity cabinet, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported on Thursday.
The report came after international donors were reportedly applying significant pressure on Abbas to retain Fayyad as prime minister, after earlier reports claimed the Palestinian prime minister would have to step down as a result of Fatah's newly signed unity pact with former rivals Hamas.
Speaking on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said Abbas wanted to keep his Western-backed prime minister in the job, but that the Palestinian president hasn't made a final decision yet because of opposition within the ranks of Fatah and Hamas.
The officials said donor nations have made clear they want Fayyad, a U.S.-educated economist and political independent, to remain in the post. They said Abbas realizes Fayyad is the best hope for a coalition government to win international recognition.
On Thursday, however, the Al-Hayat report made it apparent that Abbas had indeed decided to work toward keeping Fayyad in his current position, notifying Egyptian officials – who have been presiding over the reconciliation efforts – that the incumbent PM was Abbas' one and only candidate for the job.
A delegation of Hamas officials headed by deputy political chief Moussa Abu Marzuk is expected to arrive in Cairo next week, where it will convene with a Fatah counterpart in an effort to finalize the reconciliation agreement.
The Al-Hayat report also commented on recent developments concerning ongoing talks between Israel and Hamas geared at securing the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, saying that the commander of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed al-Jabari returned to Gaza two days ago following a visit to Cairo, where he met Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal.
During the Cairo meeting, the two Hamas officials reportedly agreed on the movement's position in prisoner exchange talks with Israel, including what they considered to be Hamas' negotiation red lines.
Meshal left Cairo on Wednesday following a series of meetings with Egyptian officials.
The report also quotes Hamas officials as saying that both France and Turkey have expressed a willingness to mediate a deal between Israel and Hamas, adding, however, that any outside help would be coordinated fully with Egyptian officials.
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