Kifah Ziboun
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on : Thursday, 15 May, 2014
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Palestine: Fatah, Hamas close to forming unity government

Both groups at odds since Hamas election victory in 2007
A Palestinian woman shouts slogans during demonstration supporting a new attempt to reconcile the militant Islamist movement Hamas and its Fatah rivals on April 22, 2014, in Gaza City.(AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

A Palestinian woman shouts slogans during demonstration supporting a new attempt to reconcile the militant Islamist movement Hamas and its Fatah rivals on April 22, 2014, in Gaza City. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Officials from rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have drawn up a list of cabinet members for a new interim unity government to be led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

After Wednesday’s one-day talks in Gaza, the two groups agreed to form a 15-member interim government, including ministers of the interior, foreign affairs and health.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, a member of the Fatah delegation to Gaza, Faisal Abu Shahla, said that Wednesday’s talks were “very positive and serious,” adding that the two sides had “agreed on the nature of the government, and its tasks and role.”

Responding to a question about whether the government line-up has been determined, Abu Shahla said: “The two factions have deliberated the names on the table,” adding that Abbas will “choose his government by himself after his foreign tour.”

The talks come as part of an April 23 deal aimed at reviving reconciliation efforts between the two factions. Under the deal, the Palestinians have to form an interim unity government of technocrats by the end of May. The aim of the government is to prepare for the 2015 general elections.

The two factions have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas’s victory in legislative elections led to a series of violent clashes that left it in possession of the Gaza Strip, with Fatah controlling parts of the West Bank.

Previous attempts to broker reconciliation between the two sides in 2013 broke down, but now both face mounting political pressure from various sources pushing them to make fresh efforts.

Despite reports of progress in rebuilding relations between both groups, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas may yet face stiffer challenges in winning Western support—or acquiescence—for a unity government which includes Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization in a number of Western countries, including the US.

Cabinet members are expected to be sworn in before Abbas and the now-dissolved Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). A new PLC Speaker is also expected to be elected.

“Once formed, the unity government will be referred to the PLC for a vote of confidence,” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.

“The PLC will monitor the unity government once it gains the vote of confidence,” Haniyeh said, adding that “any government that does not gain the PLC’s confidence will not have a constitutional legitimacy.”

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