Last updated: 19 April, 2013

Abbas pledges talks on new government in near future

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, under pressure to forge a national unity government, has pledged to launch talks “in the near future” on forming a new cabinet after the resignation of prime minister Salam Fayyad.

Abbas made the remarks late Thursday at a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which was attended by Fayyad.

“We will hold consultations in the near future to form a government,” said Abbas, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

The president has been pressed by members of his Fatah party to form a national unity government that would guarantee Palestinian national reconciliation with the rival Hamas movement.

Hamas and Fatah have both said that Fayyad’s resignation could provide an opportunity for the launch of serious efforts to reconcile the two sides.

Fayyad, who resigned on Saturday, was a bone of contention between Fatah, which dominates the West Bank, and the Islamist Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.

Hamas never recognised Fayyad’s authority, continuing instead to recognise its own premier, Ismail Haniya.

“The president must hold consultations with Palestinian movements to form a national unity government and set a date for elections,” Azzam al-Ahmed, a Fatah leader, told official Voice of Palestine radio on Monday.

The PLO statement also called for the formation “as soon as possible of a national unity government comprising independent figures” in line with a 2011 reconciliation pact.

Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Cairo in 2011, pledging to set up an interim consensus government of independents that would pave the way for legislative and presidential elections within 12 months.

But implementation of the accord has stalled over the make-up of the interim government.

The executive committee said it “rejects any pretext used to undermine the launching of a serious process of national reconciliation” and urged Hamas to seize the moment.

In his first public comments since he resigned, Fayyad, who has been asked to stay on as caretaker premier until his successor is found, called on Wednesday for a general election to rebuild the Palestinian political system.

The Palestinians “need … a general election, as the only way to rebuild our political system and achieve our national goals,” he said.

Abbas is the chairman of the PLO, the Palestinian umbrella organisation, which, in the eyes of the international community, is the sole body that purports to speak for all the Palestinian people.