Official: Rival Palestinian factions to form unity government "within five weeks"
Rival Palestinian factions officially agreed Wednesday to form a government of national unity within the "next five weeks," according to Agence France Presse.
Members from the West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Gaza-based Hamas reached the following agreement during talks in Gaza City Wednesday, a PLO member who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.
The same anonymous official also added, ""There has also been progress on the holding of future elections and the composition of the PLO."
The meetings between the two rival factions commenced Tuesday evening and are taking place behind closed doors.
Hamas member Khalil Al Hayya has described the talks as having a "positive atmosphere" and added that "noticeable progress has been made" in terms of figuring out a way to implement the reconciliation agreement between the two groups that was signed in Cairo. The accord, signed in 2011, aims to "end the political divide between Gaza and the Palestinian Authority-ruled West Bank."
Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, however, has raised the urgency of the issue when he called for "cementing Palestinian reconciliation" Tuesday, "in order to form one government, one political system and one national program."
PLO senior leader Azzam Al Ahmad who is heading the West Bank delegation echoed Haniyeh, saying that he is "happy that the time has come to end divisions."
The call for the unity government comes a mere week ahead of the April 29 deadline for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The negotiations have been on the edge of collapse since Tel Aviv refused to release a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners at the end of March as outlined under the peace talks stipulations agreed to by both sides in July 2013. Hamas has been largely opposed to the negotiation process altogether.
Hamas took control of the leadership in the Gaza Strip after winning legislative elections in 2006. Clashes erupted between Hamas and Fatah following the poll result announcement.