News / Middle East

Palestinians' Abbas Says to Start Talks on Unity Government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a flag-raising ceremony to inaugurate the new Palestinian embassy in Bayan, Kuwait, April 15, 2013.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a flag-raising ceremony to inaugurate the new Palestinian embassy in Bayan, Kuwait, April 15, 2013.
Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he would begin talks with rival factions including Islamist Hamas to form a unity government, a crucial step towards healing years of damaging internal divisions.
    
But, underscoring the chasm between Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Abbas had not consulted his group about his move and the Islamists had only heard about it in media reports.
    
Hamas and Western-backed Abbas, who heads the more secular Fatah that holds sway in self-rule areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, have been at loggerheads since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in a brief civil war in 2007.
    
Past unity attempts have foundered because Hamas and Fatah have been unable to agree a joint agenda, above all on how to handle the conflict with Israel. Hamas is committed to Israel's destruction while Fatah supports a negotiated solution providing for a Palestinian state co-existing alongside Israel.
    
The need to form a new administration was prompted by the resignation earlier this month of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad because of a rift between him and Abbas and it has created an opportunity for Abbas to forge a unity government.
    
Abbas published a statement on the Palestinian official news agency, WAFA, on Saturday urging factions "to cooperate" with his effort to form a national unity government that would be charged with readying presidential and parliamentary elections.
    
Hamas and Fatah have repeatedly failed to bridge their political differences despite signing an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement in 2011. There have been no substantive moves to implement the accord.
    
Hamas rejects the interim peace accords which Fatah leaders signed in the 1990s with Israel. Peace talks between Israel and Abbas have been stalled since 2010 over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.
    
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinians' highest decision-making body led by Abbas, said Palestinian basic law required forming a new administration because of Fayyad's resignation.
    
"Abbas's step has thrown the ball into Hamas's court to agree on a date for holding elections and they will be responsible for the failure if they do not accept," Abu Youssef told Reuters.
    
Abu Zuhri said holding elections was not possible under the current circumstances in the West Bank because Israel maintained overall control of the territory and Fatah continued to arrest Hamas men and curb their freedoms.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid