Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked his prime minister to head a unity government.This comes just before a deadline to do so under an agreement meant to end a feud between the rival Fatah and Hamas parties.
Abbas' office announced on Thursday that the Palestinian president had formally asked the prime minister in the West Bank, Rami Hamdallah (pictured above left beside Abbas) to head the new unity government.
"I wish him success with this difficult mission," his office quoted the president as saying.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the appointment of Hamdallah meant that the formation of a unity government was imminent, or if this was simply an effort by Abbas to buy more time. Theoretically, Hamdallah now has five more weeks to name a government.
At odds over foreign minister post
Thursday's announcement also comes amid reports that while the two sides have agreed on most of the names to be appointed to the unity cabinet, Fatah and Hamas have not been able to agree on the key post of foreign minister. The two sides disagree deeply on foreign policy.
Abbas, has said, however, that he wants to have the government in place in the next few days.
"The new government includes technocrat ministers who do not represent any political party, either Hamas or Fatah or even any of the other factions," he told a group of Israeli peace activists in Ramallah on Wednesday.
The move came just hours before a deadline on Thursday local time, as set out in last month's agreement between the bitter rival parties, Fatah and Hamas, which has seen the West Bank and Gaza Strip run by separate governments for the past seven years. The split came after Hamas, an Islamist group regarded by Israel, the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization, took control of Gaza following a sweeping win in legislative elections. Fatah, Abbas' party, continued to run Gaza.
Following the announcement of the deal to form a unity government, Israel suspended US sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians.
Once appointed, the unity government is meant to pave the way for a general election in 2015.
pfd/dr (dpa, Reuters, AP)