Sunday, March 15, 2009

Behind the Scenes in Cairo: Tensions Rife at Palestinian Talks

Maan News, March 14, 2009 - Cairo – Ma’an – One-hundred and eighty Palestinian leaders, businessmen and public figures from fourteen factions making up five central, one higher and two follow up committees spent their fourth day in Cairo Saturday in a grand effort at forming a consensus government.

The 180 men and women are in two halls at the Headquarters of the Egyptian Intelligence office. The space has been divided into several rooms, one for each of the five principal committees and a sixth for the higher committee.

The members of the five principal committees (PLO, Government, Elections, Security, and Reconciliation) are joined by the Secretaries General of the Higher Committee on an as-needed basis.

According to the most recent reports, members of the PLO and Reconciliation committees have finished their work and will head home. They handed in their reports on Saturday morning and Friday evening respectively.

Member of the PPP delegation, Walid Al-Awad, said the Security committee finished its job on Saturday but will continue discussing some final issues Sunday. He explained that they agreed to combine the security services by forming a committee that will be determined by the consensus government, if and when it is formed. This new committee would then prepare instructions for combining the security systems.

The Government committee, Al-Awad said, has been in meetings since the early morning. The task of the committee is seen as the most difficult, since it is charged with deciding first the form of the consensus transitional government as well as its political program within the transitional period in addition to the members that will make it up. The Elections committee, the second most contentious, is embroiled in discussions on the most appropriate elections law. A sticking point has been whether or not to use a system of proportional representation.

The committees, according to sources at the summit, are able to agree on “obvious issues” and statements on the Palestinian Basic Law, but have been unable to come up with real answers to the sources of internal division. Mainly, the position of negotiations and international legitimacy versus the right to resist as a Palestinian collective....

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