Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after a meeting with U.S. Secretary… (Sedat Suna / EPA )
RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Two weeks after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned, President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government is based in the West Bank, announced Saturday that he has started consultations over forming a new national unity government.
Abbas said he was following the timetable his Fatah party had reached with its archrival, the Islamist group Hamas, which says that he should start consultations on forming a unity government as soon as the Palestinian elections commission completed an update of its voter registry.
The elections commission said on April 10 that it has finished its work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and therefore was ready to hold elections three months after Abbas decides on a date.
But Abbas’ announcement did not please Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. It immediately described his declaration, made on the official news agency Wafa, as “unilateral” and said he should have consulted with it first.
Hamas official Salah Bardawi said his movement was “caught by surprise” by Abbas’ announcement, which was made while Abbas was on a tour of European countries.
“We were not officially informed of this and Hamas was not contacted on this matter,” he told a Hamas news site. “It is not acceptable to make unilateral decisions.”
Abbas said he would announce a new government composed of independent technocrats as soon as he completes the consultations and will simultaneously announce a date for presidential and legislative elections, which would be the first in more than seven years.
Abbas had said that the new government would stay on for three months to prepare for and conduct the national elections. Hamas is in no hurry to hold elections, a dispute causing a serious rift in the years-long reconciliation efforts.
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