The Palestinian prime minister is stepping down in a gesture to his militant rivals.

Western-backed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has submitted his resignation, saying he hopes the move will clear the way for a national unity government with the rival Islamic militant group Hamas. Fayyad's West Bank government has been at loggerheads with the Hamas regime in Gaza since the Palestinian civil war two years ago.

Fayyad's decision came ahead of the resumption of Palestinian reconciliation talks on Tuesday in Cairo.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Fayyad's resignation "is meant to enhance and support the national dialogue." He said he hopes an agreement on power-sharing can be reached by the end of this month.

Mr. Abbas set up a new government in the West Bank after Hamas routed his Fatah forces in the Gaza civil war in 2007. He sacked Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza and replaced him with the moderate Fayyad.

Therefore, Hamas was lukewarm to Fayyad's decision, saying his government was "illegal and unconstitutional" in the first place.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the Fayyad government did not work for the sake of the Palestinian people, but for its own agenda.

A unity government is seen as a necessary step toward Palestinian statehood but there is a hitch. A Palestinian state would have to be negotiated with Israel, but Hamas refuses to talk to or recognize the Jewish state. And Israel says it will not deal with any government that includes Hamas.