Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to call for the formation of a Palestinian unity government Wednesday, a PA official said Tuesday.

The official said that Abbas would issue the call during a speech marking the anniversary of Palestinian “independence day.”

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Abbas will call for the formation of a unity government dominated by independent figures as part of an agreement between his Fatah faction and Hamas, the official told The Jerusalem Post. The official would neither confirm nor deny reports that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad would be excluded from the new PA government.

Fatah and Hamas have been holding secret talks in Cairo in the past few weeks in a bid to reach agreement on the formation of a Palestinian unity government and new presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories.

The discussions came on the eve of a planned meeting between Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in the Egyptian capital next week.

Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, revealed Tuesday that he had held a secret meeting in Cairo with Musa Abu Marzouk, the Syrian-based deputy head of the Hamas “political bureau.” Ahmed said that he had held several meetings with Abu Marzouk “in order to create a positive atmosphere” ahead of the Abbas-Mashaal summit.

The Fatah official voiced optimism regarding the planned summit’s prospects of success, saying the two parties had made “good preparations” ahead of the meeting.

He said Abbas was planning to propose holding new elections in March next year.

Fatah and Hamas announced last May that they had reached an agreement to end their differences. However, the agreement was never implemented due to sharp differences between the two parties over a number of issues, first and foremost the identity of the prime minister who would head a new unity government.

Hamas’s refusal to accept Fayyad as head of the proposed government was the major obstacle to achieving reconciliation between the two sides, Fatah officials said Tuesday.

But an announcement by Fayyad earlier this week that he would be prepared to step down – to pave the way for the implementation of a Fatah-Hamas unity deal – now seems to have paved the way for rapprochement between the two parties.

Ahmed and other Fatah officials hinted Tuesday that they would no longer insist on the nomination of Fayyad.

“Fatah is prepared to propose other candidates for the job of prime minister,” said a PA official in Ramallah. “We don’t want Fayyad to be an obstacle to Palestinian unity.”

Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel reiterated his movement’s opposition to Fayyad.

Bardaweel said that the reconciliation talks between the two groups would fail if Abbas insisted on the appointment of Fayyad as prime minister of a unity government.

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