Palestinians Agree on January Polls

Rival Palestinian factions have agreed to hold elections by January next year after holding negotiations in Cairo over a unity government.

However, at the conclusion of the Egyptian-mediated talks late on Sunday, Fatah and Hamas – the biggest Palestinian groups – continued to differ on a few points, including who would be in the new government.

Some Western governments have been pushing for a Palestinian government run by non-partisan politicians and technocrats.

Wasil Abou Youssef, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Front, one of the groups taking part in Sunday’s talks, told Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency that they had agreed to hold joint presidential and legislative elections by January 25, 2010.

Sticking Points

Last month, Palestinian factions had agreed to form five committees to tackle issues such as the composition of security agencies in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Palestinian territories have seen separate rule for the past 21 months, after Hamas fighters forced Palestinian Authority security forces loyal to Fatah out of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Reform of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), one of Hamas’s demands, has also still to be agreed.

The PLO – dominated by Fatah and allied groups – has represented the Palestinians since 1964. More recent groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have never been a part of the organization, despite enjoying popular support.

Another point of contention is Hamas’s acceptance of peace accords signed between Israel and previous Fatah-run governments, which would amount to formally recognizing the state.

Among the new government’s tasks will be to lead the reconstruction of Gaza, which saw billions of dollars worth of damage during a three-week Israeli offensive earlier in the year.

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