CAIRO (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will meet Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo next week to finalise a new government put together by the two factions, a top official of his Fatah movement said Tuesday.
The meeting was announced as Palestinian factions were in Cairo for reconciliation talks aimed at choosing a prime minister to head the unity government.
“Today, during the talks between the Fatah and Hamas delegations, a meeting was scheduled for next Tuesday between President Abbas and Meshaal to finalise the formation of the new government,” said Azzam al-Ahmad, who heads the Fatah delegation at the talks.
“They also decided that this meeting will be the last to finalise the issue of the government,” he told AFP.
Fatah met a Hamas delegation headed by Mussa Abu Marzuk at the Egyptian intelligence headquarters.
It has said it wants to retain prime minister Salam Fayyad to head the government, but the nomination was immediately rejected by the Islamist movement.
A Fatah member who attended the talks told AFP that negotiations “stumbled over the list of names (for prime minister) which were put forward by Fatah, particularly Fayyad.”
“Hamas strongly rejected Fayyad as head of the next government and officially notified us of their rejection and said the issue was not open for discussion, asking us to abide by the reconciliation agreement which says that all names in the government must be agreed by consensus,” the member said.
“The Cairo agreement stipulates that all the issues must be resolved by agreement and that no party imposes any person on the other, and this was stressed again during the meeting today (Tuesday),” he said.
He said that, because there was disagreement over Fayyad, it was agreed that the leaders of Fatah and Hamas would meet in Cairo on June 21.
“Hamas has not put forward any new suggestions and we agreed that both sides would choose the government ministers after agreeing on the head of the unity government,” he said.
Fayyad told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah that he would not want to be a stumbling block in the reconciliation deal.
“I assure you that there is no way I can accept that the formation of the unity government be delayed because of me,” Fayyad said.
“I will not impose myself on anyone, and I do not want any side to perceive me as being imposed on them. But if there is an agreement on my (nomination), I will be willing to take on the task,” he added.
Both Fatah and Hamas said they were optimistic they would come to an agreement.
“God willing, this will be the last round of talks regarding the formation of the government,” Ahmad told AFP ahead of the meeting.
The Egyptian-sponsored talks are the fruit of a reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo in May aimed at ending years of bitter feuding and laying the groundwork for presidential and parliamentary elections within a year.
Fatah’s central committee agreed on Saturday to throw their support behind Fayyad, a former World Bank official and preferred candidate of the international community.
But Hamas has rejected Fayyad, blaming him for the arrest and alleged torture of its leaders, and plunging the Palestinian Authority into debt.
Izzat al-Risheq, a member of the Hamas politburo, said ahead of the Cairo talks that the best way forward in forming the unity government was to exclude controversial candidates.
“A main principle we have agreed on is that thorny issues or disagreements be dealt with by both sides through consensus. Therefore the government will be one of consensus and no side will impose its view on the other,” Egyptian state news agency MENA quoted Risheq as saying.
“We feel the best way is to exclude controversial choices,” he said.
On Sunday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri reiterated his movement’s rejection of Fayyad.
“Hamas informed Fatah during the last meeting of its rejection of the choice of Salam Fayyad to head the new government,” Abu Zuhri told AFP.
Hamas has yet to put forward a candidate for the prime minister’s post.