Middle East Online, February 27, 2009 - Rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas agreed on Thursday to work together to set up a unity government after Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks aimed at ending long-running factional feuding.
"It is indeed a historic day," former Palestinian premier Ahmed Qorei said at a press conference announcing the creation of five joint committees, including one tasked with forming a national unity government.
Qorei, a member of the Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said the committees, which will also cover issues such as security, national reconciliation, elections and reform of the umbrella group the Palestine Liberation Organisation, would complete their work by the end of March.
"We have started a new chapter of reconciliation and unity."
Earlier, officials from two smaller Palestinian factions said the groups involved in talks had agreed to form a unity government by the end of March but Qorei did not confirm this deadline.
"No doubt some of the results of the committees will be immediately implemented, such as the government committee...it will be immediately formed and take full charge in Gaza and the West Bank," Hamas delegation leader Mussa Abu Marzuk told the press conference.
As part of the agreement, the factions have also agreed to release prisoners held by Hamas and Fatah and to end a war of words being played out in the media, Qorei said.Thursday's agreement comes just days ahead of an aid meeting for Gaza being held on Monday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the Palestinians are seeking billions of dollars from international donors.
Egypt had originally called for Palestinian reconciliation talks in November, but Hamas withdrew at the last minute, complaining that Fatah was continuing to arrest Hamas members in the West Bank....