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Abbas: Unity government, elections still on the table

Jan. 27, 2016 10:22 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 3, 2016 9:58 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that a national unity government as well as national elections were still on the table, but not yet approved by the Hamas movement.

The president in an interview with the Monte Carlo al-Doualiya radio station in Ramallah said he was “continuing efforts” to end Palestinian factional division, but blamed Hamas for abandoning an agreement signed in April 2014.

The agreement was intended to end the more than seven-year split between Hamas and Fatah, and led to the formation of a unity government months later. While national elections were set to be held shortly after, the unity government subsequently failed and elections have yet to be held.

“Talks were not continued,” Abbas said, “so we offered Hamas a two-point agreement: a national unity government with Hamas and other factions, and free and fair elections three months later for the legislative council and the Palestinian presidency, if Hamas wanted to.”

The president said he had “not yet received a positive response from Hamas,” without specifying if a new offer had been extended to the Gaza-based movement.

Abbas also said Palestinians were “against extremism and terrorism,” adding that he feared Israeli policy would lead to the Islamic State group “entering the heart of Israel.”

The Palestinian president reiterated past statements that he was open and willing to restart negotiations with Israel on the grounds that Israel adhere to past agreements signed, specifically addressing agreements including the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas did not release an immediate response to Abbas’ comments, but the group slammed the Palestinian Authority last week following statements by PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj that PA security forces had aborted 200 potential attacks on Israelis since October.

Hamas, joined by other Palestinian factions, said Faraj’s remarks constituted “an insult to the struggle and sacrifices of Palestinians.”

Abbas’ statements Wednesday came as factional division continues to be a source of frustration for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, as leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of factional reconciliation and holding long-overdue elections.
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