Abbas decides not to ask Fayad to form gov't

PA president accedes to Egypt's request to avoid "closing the door" on possible unity coalition.

Abbas Fayad 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Fayad 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
At the request of the Egyptians, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided over the weekend not to ask outgoing Prime Minister Salaam Fayad to form a new government, to avoid closing the door to the establishment of a joint Hamas-Fatah coalition, a senior PA official in Ramallah said Saturday. The official said that Abbas was supposed to entrust Fayad with forming a new government immediately after his return from a tour that took him to Russia and Egypt. Fayad submitted his resignation to Abbas last month, saying he wanted to pave the way for the establishment of a Hamas-Fatah government whose main task would be to rebuild the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead. Although Fayad said then that he would leave office by the end of March, he has decided - at Abbas's request - to stay in power until further notice. Hamas has made it clear that it would not sit in any government headed by Fayad, whom the movement accuses of being responsible for the continued massive security crackdown on its supporters in the West Bank. "President Hosni Mubarak, who met with President Abbas last week, urged him to refrain from forming a new government because Egypt believes that there is still a chance of reaching agreement between Fatah and Hamas over a Palestinian unity government," the official said. "The new government of Salaam Fayad was expected to see the replacement of seven ministers." Over the past few months, Egypt has been trying - unsuccessfully - to negotiate an end to the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. Representatives of the two parties who met in Cairo in the past few weeks failed to end the rift. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO representative and close aide to Abbas, said on Saturday that the Hamas-Fatah talks have failed to achieve any progress, especially with regards to the establishment of a unity government. He said that the Egyptians were now thinking of inviting the two sides to another round of talks in Cairo at the end of April. Another top Abbas aide said that the Egyptians have come up with a new initiative to end the Hamas-Fatah standoff. The initiative calls for the formation of a special committee that would serve as a liaison between the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the aide said. He added that the initiative also calls for Abbas to form a new government in the West Bank that would be headed by an independent figure. The initiative, he said, would allow the Hamas government to directly oversee the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Abbas has so far refused to give Hamas any role in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, insisting that the West Bank-based government was the only party authorized to represent the Palestinians. The Egyptian initiative also does not require the Hamas government to accept the conditions of the Quartet for ending the boycott against it: recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing terrorism and abiding by all previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel, the aide explained. The political program of the proposed unity government has been one of the main stumbling points in the Hamas-Fatah talks. Abbas has demanded that Hamas accept the three conditions of the Quartet as a prerequisite for joining a unity government - a demand that has been strongly and repeatedly rejected by Hamas.