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Hamas: No agreement to announce unity government

June 1, 2014 10:56 A.M. (Updated: June 2, 2014 1:42 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Hamas spokesperson said on Sunday that no official agreement had been reached between Hamas and Fatah to announce the government of national unity, a day after president Abbas said it would be formed by Monday.

Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that news reports about the possible announcement of the unity government this week were "unilateral," stressing that "there is still disagreement over some points that need to be addressed."

The Hamas spokesperson's statements highlight ongoing disputes in the effort to form the national reconciliation government that could potentially end seven years of political division between the two largest Palestinian political parties.

Abu Zuhri said that central to the ongoing disputes is that the Hamas movement continues to have strong reservations about Fatah's insistence on selecting Riyadh al-Maliki as the minister of foreign affairs.

"Al-Maliki is undesirable from a nationalistic point of view as he used to have very negative stances, especially towards the Gaza Strip," Abu Zuhri said.

Abu Zuhri did, however, point to Hamas' willingness to compromise on the issue, saying that the agreement will move forward regardless and the government will be announced even if al-Maliki remains a cabinet minister.

Abu Zuhri also said that Hamas disagrees with Fatah's suggestion to eliminate the ministry of prisoners’ affairs.

"The prisoners' issue is a national cause which is not restricted to Hamas, and the calls to eliminate the ministry of prisoners' affairs came at the wrong time," he said.

Abu Zuhri highlighted that Hamas would invite all Palestinian parties to a meeting Monday to discuss the prisoners' issue.

"We could not understand the justifications cited to explain the elimination of the ministry of prisoners' affairs. We have already agreed on the candidate for the portfolio of prisoners' affairs, but we were surprised when Azzam al-Ahmad told us that the president wanted to change the ministry to an independent body run directly by the Palestine Liberation Organization," he said in the statement.

The statement comes a day after president Abbas said that the government of national unity would be announced by Monday, despite Israeli threats to boycott the Palestinian Authority if they formally reconciled with Hamas.

On Saturday, Israeli news website Ynet reported that Israeli authorities had rejected the requests of three Palestinians expected to be appointed as ministers in the new government to cross from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

Ynet said that the head of Israel's "civil administration" Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai had rejected the requests earlier on Saturday, and that they had intended to travel to Ramallah for the "planned Monday swear-in ceremony."

An April 23 agreement between Hamas and the PLO paved the way for the formation of a government of national unity for the first time in seven years, but Israel has strongly opposed the deal on the basis that Hamas rejects its right to exist.

Abbas, however, has repeatedly pointed out that the national unity government will adhere to previous PA and PLO policies which recognize Israel.

Israel, in turn, has never recognized the Palestinians' right to exist, and has been reluctant in the past to negotiate with the PA because it did not represent all of the Palestinians, only those in the West Bank, since 2006.

The political division between Fatah and Hamas began in 2007, a year after Hamas won legislative elections across the Palestinian territories but was subjected to a boycott by Israel and Western countries that left the economy in a fragile state.

In that year, however, Hamas accused Fatah members in the Gaza Strip of engineering a coup to bring down the government, which led to street clashes and ended with Hamas control over the Gaza Strip and a Fatah-led government in the West Bank.
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