Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a historic reconciliation deal on Wednesday, nearly seven years after a schism between the rival Palestinian factions.
The reconciliation deal is based primarily on the agreements signed by the factions in Cairo and in Doha.
Addressing reporters in Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he was "happy to declare the end of the period of inter-Palestinian division."
According to Haniyeh's statement to reporters, under the deal the two sides must uphold past agreements, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will form an interim unity government within five weeks, followed by elections in six months.
The vote for president, the legislative council and the Palestine Liberation Organization will take place at the same time, according to the deal. The final date of elections will be set by Abbas. A special PLO committee will meet within five weeks to discuss what is expected of the organization from the initiation of the agreement.
The head of Fatah's delegation for unity talks Azzam Al-Ahmad said, "We agreed to implement all the articles that were agreed in the past according to agreements in Doha and Cairo."
Earlier Wednesday, Mounib Al-Masri, a member of Abbas' delegation in the Gaza Strip, said that the two sides had reached an agreement on all of the issues, including holding elections within six months.
According to Palestinian sources, Abbas will publish two presidential decrees on Wednesday evening regarding the formation of the new government and the calling of elections. Sources in Ramallah say that Abbas will head the government and that his deputies will be Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Haniyeh. The possibility of an independent figure close to Hamas being tasked with forming the government has not been dismissed.
The two sides have still not agreed on a few issues, including the future of Hamas' security forces, which were created after the Islamist group seized power in a bloody 2007 coup in the Gaza Strip. It is not yet clear whether Hamas will agree to dismantle the forces or to allow them to be under the supervision and command of the Palestinian Authority's security forces.
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