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Middle East
Palestinian factions sign reconciliation deal
Representatives of factions including Fatah and its rival Hamas ink deal following talks in Egypt.
Last Modified: 03 May 2011 12:13
The deal comes after 18 months of talks and envisions the formation of an interim government of independents [AFP]

Palestinian factions have signed a reconciliation deal that will pave the way for elections within a year.

Representatives of factions including Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party and its rival Hamas inked the deal following talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on Tuesday.

"We signed the deal despite several reservations. But we insisted on working for the higher national interest," said Walid al-Awad, a politburo member of the leftist Palestine People's Party.

"We have discussed all the reservations. Everyone has agreed to take these points into consideration," he told Egyptian state television without elaborating.

"Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will be celebrating this agreement... We must now work to implement what was agreed in the deal."

Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said 13 Palestinian factions were involved in the signing of the deal, including members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) - the representative body for the Palestinian people.

A formal signing ceremony is scheduled to take place in Cairo on Wednesday.

"In the official ceremony we will really see all the Palestinian factions come together for the first time in four years," our correspondent said.

The deal, which was announced last week, comes after 18 months of fruitless talks and envisions the formation of an interim government of independents that will pave the way for presidential and legislative elections within a year.

"But in terms of how things are going to work for the next 12 months, we are told three separate committees will be formed to work out outstanding issues, which have been the crux of the problem of getting all sides together," she said.

"Those issues include security, meaning finding viable ways to incorporate a security system between Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the multitude of militia groups and factions inside Gaza.

"Another committee will look after the reorganisation of the PLO, and the other will work on planning for the elections."

Palestinian officials say the new government's role will be to manage affairs in the Palestinian territories, while the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) will remain in charge of peace talks with Israel.

Fatah and Hamas have been bitterly divided since June 2007 when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, routing Fatah loyalists in bloody confrontations that effectively split the Palestinian territories into two separate entities with separate governments.

But Israel has heavily criticised the agreement, refusing to deal with a government that includes Hamas, which it and the United States brand a terrorist organisation.

Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, reacted to the signing of the reconciliation deal on Tuesday by calling on Abbas to rescind it.

"I call on Abu Mazen (Abbas) to completely cancel the agreement with Hamas and to choose the path to peace with Israel," Netanyahu said during a meeting with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, in Jerusalem.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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