Abbas, Fayyad agree to form new cabinet

Sources say Palestinian president, prime minister agree to cabinet headed by Fayyad; no agreement yet on foreign minister.

Abbas Fayyad Arafat (photo credit: REUTERS)
Abbas Fayyad Arafat
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have reached an agreement on the formation of a new Palestinian cabinet, Palestinian sources said Tuesday.
The agreement was reached during a three-hour meeting between the two men, the sources said.
According to the sources, the agreement was made possible after Abbas abandoned his demand for a cabinet reshuffle and accepted Fayyad’s request to form a new cabinet.
The new cabinet will be headed by Fayyad and will consist of 20 ministers, the London-based Al-Quds Al- Arabi reported Tuesday.
The new cabinet will be sworn in before Abbas, the newspaper said.
The sources said that Abbas and Fayyad agreed in principle to change, and not reshuffle, the cabinet.
Between six and seven new ministers are expected to join the new cabinet, they said.
Abbas and Fayyad have yet to reach an agreement on the position of foreign minister.
While Abbas insists on keeping current Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in his position, Fayyad wants him out of the cabinet.
The sources claimed that the Abbas-Fayyad agreement calls for appointing Nabil Qassis, former head of Bir Zeit University, as finance minister.
The finance ministry has been in the hands of Fayyad since the establishment of the West Bank government more than three years ago.
“The dispute between Abbas and Fayyad over the foreign ministry is very big,” one source told Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “Maliki will be a hot and hard battle, but Fayyad will lose,” the source said.
Fayyad will hold only one position in the new cabinet – prime minister. In addition, a top Fatah official will be appointed as deputy prime minister.