'No unity talks until Fatah can operate in Gaza'

Fatah official says talks over formation of unity gov't will remain on hold until Hamas allows elections commission in Strip.

Abbas, Mashaal, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Abbas, Mashaal, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Talks over the formation of a Palestinian unity government will remain suspended until Hamas allows the Palestinian Central Elections Commission to operate in the Gaza Strip, a Fatah leader in the West Bank said Wednesday.
Fatah and Hamas agreed two weeks ago to delay the talks over the formation of a unity government that would be headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as envisaged by the Qatari-brokered reconciliation agreement between the organizations.
Since then, the two sides have traded allegations over who was responsible for the delay.
Fatah said that the decision to postpone the talks was taken at the request of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who is facing strong opposition within his movement over the pact.
Hamas, on the other hand, said it was Abbas who requested the delay, citing Israel’s refusal to permit Arab residents of Jerusalem to cast their ballots.
Abbas was originally hoping to hold long overdue presidential and parliamentary elections in May this year.
The proposed unity government’s main task was to prepare for the elections and rebuild the Gaza Strip.
Several Hamas leaders have come out against the reconciliation agreement signed by Abbas and Mashaal in Doha last month, arguing that the Hamas leader did not consult with them before signing the deal.
Jamal Muhaissen, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, accused Hamas of preventing the Central Elections Commission from registering some 250,000 voters in the Strip, a process which he said was expected to last six weeks.
Muhaissen said that once the commission completes its work, Abbas would issue a decree calling for new elections in line with the agreement between the two parties.
Muhaissen denied claims by a Hamas official that Abbas was scheduled to present a list with the names of the new cabinet ministers in the unity government within two weeks.
The Fatah official stressed that the talks over the formation of such a government would remain on hold until Hamas allows the elections commission to start operating in the Strip.
Muhaissen also denied as “baseless” Hamas charges that the PA had prevented supporters of the Islamist movement in the West Bank from registering with the commission.
In yet another sign of the deepening crisis, senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed denied that the two organizations had formed a joint team to facilitate the establishment of the new cabinet, saying Fatah did not ask any of its Gaza Strip representatives to do so.
Ahmed said Hamas had asked to postpone the current Thursday deadline and requested two weeks to make a final decision regarding the unity government.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied that his movement was responsible for the current stalemate and said the entire issue was in the hands of Abbas.