In a move that could facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian unity government, Hamas agreed Monday to allow the Palestinian Central Elections Commission to start registering voters in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s refusal to permit the commission to work in the Gaza Strip was the main reason why the two parties had failed to implement the Doha Accord that was signed earlier this year by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

The “reconciliation” accord envisages the establishment of a Palestinian unity government headed by Abbas. The new government’s task would be to prepare for holding long overdue presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories.

The unity government will be dominated by technocrats and independent figures and would replace the West Bankbased government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Hanna Nasser, chairman of the elections commission, met on Monday with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and agreed with him that the commission would start registering voters in the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

Nasser told reporters after the meeting in Gaza City that the registration process would continue for six weeks.

Palestinian sources said they expected more than 250,000 new voters from the Gaza Strip to be registered.

The last presidential election was held in January 2005. One year later, Palestinians voted for a new parliament.

The dispute between Hamas and Fatah, which erupted after the Islamist movement won the 2006 vote, prevented new elections for the president and parliament.

Haniyeh’s deputy, Mohammed Awad, confirmed that Hamas had agreed to permit the elections commission to start working in the Gaza Strip.

Both Awad and Nasser voiced hope during a joint press conference that the latest agreement would pave the way for the implementation of the Doha Accord and the formation of a Palestinian “national consensus” government.

The meeting in Gaza City coincided with the launch of talks in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah representatives to discuss the make-up of the planned unity government.

The talks are being led by Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmed and Hamas’s Musa Abu Marzouk.

Ezat Rishek, a senior Hamas official, said that the unity government, which would be headed by Abbas, would consist of technocrats and independent figures. Representatives of various Palestinian factions would not be included in the unity government, he added.

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