Hamas agrees to negotiations with its rival Fatah to hold general elections
MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)
The Gaza-based Hamas group on Sunday agreed to hold negotiations with the West Bank-based Fatah faction, accepting key demands set forth by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to open negotiations towards reconciliation and national elections after a decades-long rivalry.
Hamas has run Gaza since 2007, having seized it in a near civil war from Fatah following a dispute over parliamentary elections won by the Islamist movement.
A statement released by the Hamas official spokesperson said that the group was "responding to the generous Egyptian efforts, which reflect the Egyptian desire to end the split and achieve reconciliation, and based on our desire to achieve national unity."
The statement said that the group had dissolved its controversial "administrative committee", which had been formed in March as an attempt to create a rival government and scuttle moves towards a unified Palestinian government.
Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said a bilateral meeting with Hamas would be organised to begin working out a way forward.
"There will be tangible practical steps in the next few days, starting with the Palestinian national unity government resuming its work according to law in Gaza as it does in the West Bank, in order to continue its efforts to relieve the suffering of our people in the strip and work towards lifting the unjust blockade," Ahmad told official Palestinian news agency Wafa, referring to Israel's decade-long blockade of the Strip.
The announcement was welcomed by United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov who urged all parties use this opportunity to "open a new page for the Palestinian people."
“I welcome the recent statement by Hamas announcing the dissolving of the Administrative Committee in Gaza and agreement to allow the Government of National Consensus to assume its responsibilities in Gaza," Mladenov said in a statement.
"I commend the Egyptian authorities for their tireless efforts in creating this positive momentum. All parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people," he said, adding that the UN "stands ready to assist all efforts in this respect."
"It is critical that the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis, be addressed as a priority," Mladenov added.
A Fatah delegation visited Cairo this week in order to help resolve the Fatah-Hamas conflict, dividing Palestinian leadership.
Hamas said it had invited Abbas' government to return to the Gaza Strip and was ready to hold national elections.
A source in Ramallah told i24NEWS that Abbas, who is currently in New York to attend the UN General Assembly later this week, intends to sign a decree reversing all punitive government decisions taken against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Fatah, the largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization, is recognized by Israel and some 100 countries as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
Tensions between Hamas and the PA have run high in recent months, with the latter deciding in April to stop paying Israel for electricity supplies sent to Gaza.
Last month the PA suspended plans to force more than 6,000 of its employees in Gaza into early retirement, which was criticized as an attempt to pressure Hamas. Many of the workers were in the health and education ministries, and aid officials voiced concern about the implications for Gaza's two million inhabitants.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told Egyptian officials that he would disband his group's "administration committee" if it helped advance reconciliation with the rival Palestinian faction Fatah, an official with the militant Islamist group.
(Staff with AFP)
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two terrorist factions is all the palis have