Abbas vows to speed up reconciliation with Hamas 18Nov11 November 18, 2011

Ma’an News Agency  -  17 November 2011

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas pledged Wednesday to speed up reconciliation with Hamas in a speech to honor late President Yasser Arafat.

Abbas said he would meet Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Cairo on Nov. 23, addressing his leadership in Ramallah to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Arafat’s death.

The party leaders will address the reconciliation deal signed in May to end years of rivalry that split Palestinians into separate administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

“In order to expedite the implementation of the reconciliation, we will continue to make every effort to speed up the resolution of the remaining issues — first among them the presidential and legislative elections, as well as those for the Palestinian National Council, and the formation of a government of independents to oversee the elections,” Abbas said.

Fatah official Jamal Muhsein told Ma’an on Wednesday that the upcoming November meeting must end political division, noting that it had been well prepared for.

The Muslim brotherhood in Egypt had also urged Hamas to end the division with Fatah, Muhsein added.

Responding to questions about the possibility of Abbas not running in the next elections, the Fatah official said that he hopes the President will stay on “but if he insists on not running in the coming elections, it will be a first that a president steps down when his people want him.”

The unity deal called for the quick formation of a consensus government of independents that would pave the way for elections within a year.

But the agreement has yet to be implemented, with the two sides unable to agree on the composition of the interim government or who should lead it.

On Tuesday, Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said that both parties had reached agreement on several key issues of the reconciliation deal.

Abbas pledged: “Achieving reconciliation is the desire of all our people… and I promise you all that we will do what we can to accomplish the reconciliation.”

The president also reiterated that 1967 borders must be the basis for negotiations and settlement building must end before talks with Israel could restart.

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