Cairo Hosts Palestinian Unity Talks

Palestinian groups have resumed talks in Egypt on the formation of a unity government that would prepare for presidential and legislative elections and oversee the reconstruction of Gaza.

The resumption of talks on Tuesday follows the formation, on February 26, of five committees set up to tackle issues such as the composition of security agencies in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief who is mediating between various Palestinian groups, urged the rival factions to find speedy solutions to their differences.

"I look forward to us finishing our work quickly and within a few days to celebrate our unity. We are meeting here to succeed," Suleiman said.

He said the most important job for the Palestinians was to form a government of non-partisan technocrats, repeating a demand by the Western powers that consider Hamas a "terrorist" group and refuse to negotiate with its representatives.

‘Precious Opportunity’

Suleiman said such a government would be able to "communicate with the world" in an effort to lift the Israeli-led blockade on Gaza, oversee reconstruction efforts and prepare for elections.

"I do not want to remind you of the consequences of, God forbid, failure," Suleiman said.

"We face a precious opportunity that may not be repeated".

Western nations opposed a previous unity government led by Hamas after the group won parliamentary elections in 2006.

Diplomats and analysts see the success of the Egyptian-sponsored talks as vital to reuniting Palestinians after 21 months of divisions between Hamas ruled Gaza and the West Bank, which is controlled by Fatah, the faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. 

On Saturday, Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, said he planned to resign by the end of March to make way for the formation of the unity government.

Abbas, who appointed Fayyad after Hamas defeated Fatah in Gaza in 2007, asked him to remain in office until results emerged from the talks in Cairo.

Participants in February’s talks said the five committees would have an agreement by the end of March.

However, a senior Hamas official said at the time it would take more than a few days to agree on the government.

Also attending Tuesday’s talks were Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, and Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general.
(Agencies via English)

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