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Abbas: Elections in 6 months

June 2, 2014 8:53 P.M. (Updated: June 5, 2014 11:11 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that new elections would be held within six months, after a Palestinian unity government was announced in Ramallah.

Abbas said during the first meeting with the newly sworn-in cabinet that one of the objectives of this cabinet was to facilitate the elections process.

He added that directives would be issued to cabinet members and to the central elections commission in days to start preparing for the election, adding that a date will be agreed upon with the commission.

Abbas also called Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and thanked him for his efforts to end the division.

Both Abbas and Haniyeh highlighted their shared responsibility for the next steps.

Haniyeh also received a call from senior Fatah official, Abbas Zaki, who offered appreciation for his help in forming the unity government and reconciliation.

He also pointed out that the united front would help oppose Israel.

Earlier, Abbas hailed the "end" of Palestinian division as a new government took its oath under a unity deal between leaders in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case," Abbas said at his Ramallah headquarters after the new cabinet was sworn in.

"This black page in the history (of the Palestinians) has been turned forever, and we will not allow it to come back."

Hamas officials also welcomed the new government as one for "all Palestinians" after the cabinet, which is made up of political independents, was sworn in.

"We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

The new government, he said, was "a turning point... enabling us to unite the Palestinian effort to face the Israeli occupation".

There were no major changes to a list of names touted for key portfolio positions in the lead up to the announcement.

Hamdallah will remain as prime minister and minister of interior, while Ziad Abu Amr will be the deputy prime minister and minister of culture.

Muhammad Mustafa will be deputy prime minister and minister of national economy and Shukri Bishara was named as minister of finance and planning.

Riyad al-Maliki will remain as minister of foreign affairs, Salim al-Saqqa, from Gaza, will be minister of justice, and Adnan al-Husseini will be minister of Jerusalem affairs.

Rula Maya is minister of tourism and antiquities and Jawad Awad remains as minister of health.

Other key positions include Khawlah Shakhshir as minister of education and higher education, Mufeed al-Hasayna as minister of public works and housing, Allam Mousa as minister of telecommunications and transportation, and Shawqi al-Ayasa as minister of agriculture and social affairs.

Hayfaa al-Agha is minister for women, Mamoun Abu Shahla is minister of labor, Nayif Abu Khalaf is minister of local governance and Yousif Ideis is minister of endowment.

A cabinet of 17

The government includes three women and five ministers who come from Gaza. Over the weekend, Israel blocked three of the Gazans from traveling to Ramallah for the oath-taking.

Abbas has pledged that the new administration will abide by the principles laid down by the Middle East peace Quartet: Recognize Israel, reject violence and abide by all existing agreements.

Under terms of a deal inked on April 23, the PLO agreed to work with Hamas to establish an interim government of independents that would organize long-delayed elections.

The surprise agreement sought to end years of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalry which had seen the establishment of rival Palestinian administrations, with the West Bank ruled by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, and Gaza under Hamas authority.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Abbas to express "concern about Hamas's role in any such government," the State Department said.

European 'ambiguity'

There was no immediate reaction from Israel which has made no secret of its opposition to the unity agreement with Hamas.

"I call on all responsible elements within the international community not to hurry to recognize the Palestinian government that Hamas is part of," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Again on Monday, he hit out at Europe for demonstrating "ambiguity" to the idea of unity with Hamas, which is blacklisted by the European Union and Washington as a "terror organization."

Israel's security cabinet met overnight to discuss the new government, reconfirming an April decision to halt negotiations with any government backed by Hamas, newspapers reported on Monday. There was no comment from Netanyahu's office.

AFP contributed to this report
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