Abbas to Lead Palestinian Unity Cabinet, Following Hamas-Fatah Deal

Agreement between rival factions represents a significant breakthrough in the efforts to reach Palestinian reconciliation; still not clear when unity government will be sworn in.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wil head a Fatah-Hamas unity caretaker cabinet, Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshal said in a joint announcement on Monday, in a move that could pave for a long-sought-after reconciliation between the rival factions.

"We are serious, both Fatah and Hamas, in healing the wounds and ending the chapter of division and reinforcing and accomplishing reconciliation," Meshal said in remarks televised live by Al Jazeera from Qatar.

Abbas Meshal agreement

He said the Palestinians wanted to accomplish unity and move forward "to resist the enemy [Israel] and achieve our national goal."

Abbas, head of the secular Fatah organization, promised that this effort will be implemented in the shortest time possible."

A Palestinian source speaking with Haaretz indicted that both parties were considering the option of naming Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as Abbas' deputies.

The Doha Agreement stipulates that the unity caretaker government will be comprised of non-affiliated technocrats, and its mission will be to start Gaza's rehabilitation and to prepare for a general Palestinian election for both president and parliament.

A second meeting between the two Palestinian leaders has been set to February 18 in Cairo, where Abbas and Meshal will be expected to set the date for the upcoming vote.

The agreement on Abbas' leadership of a caretaker unity cabinet represents a significant breakthrough in the efforts to reach Palestinian reconciliation for the first time since Gaza and the West Bank broke into disunity following Hamas' violent takeover of the coastal enclave in 2007.

These recent developments, reportedly taking place with aid and mediation of Qatar's Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa, came despite recent tensions between the rival factions.

Last month, Fatah said it would have to reevaluate its reconciliation pact with Hamas group following the rejection of a Fatah visit to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip last week.

In a statement, Fatah's Central Committee said Hamas's behavior showed it was not interested in the implementation of the reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo last year, which included the formation of a unity government and the holding of a parliamentary election on May 4.

Speaking following what the Palestinians have called the failure of a recent round of peace talks with Israel, Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO's top panel, said that the Palestinian leadership could accelerate reconciliation talks with Hamas, adding that "all necessary measure will be weighed in order to strengthen our people's resolve against the racist and fascist occupation and to increase popular resistance in all Palestinian lands."

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