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PM Fayyad proposes unity government with Hamas

Palestinian prime minister Fayyad proposes forming a unity government with rivals governing the Gaza Strip Hamas

AFP , Tuesday 22 Feb 2011
Fayyad
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad speaks at the northern West Bank village of Al-Jalameh Sunday 20 February 2011. (AP)
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Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad has proposed forming a unity government with Hamas, under which the Islamist group would have responsibility for security in Gaza.

Speaking to Palestinian journalists late on Monday, Fayyad said the "security concept" applied by Hamas in Gaza, where the group has sought to enforce a ceasefire with Israel, could provide common ground.

"The security concept practised by Hamas in the Gaza Strip should be brought under an official framework because it is not different from what is practised by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank," Fayyad said. "After a national unity government is formed, it can take on the task of supervising a security agreement based on the institutions in place in the West Bank and Gaza."

"The compatibility between the policy adopted by the Palestinian leadership and that applied by Hamas on the ground in Gaza... opens the way for a national unity government to immediately manage affairs of state," he added.

Fayyad's proposal, which comes as he seeks to form a new government, would not vastly change the situation on the ground in Gaza or the West Bank. But it could pave the way for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Longtime bitter rivals, the tensions between the two groups boiled over in 2007, a year after Hamas won legislative elections. Bloody clashes between the two saw Hamas oust Fatah from the Gaza Strip and take control.

The West Bank, which is under the control of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party, has been effectively cut off from the Gaza Strip ever since.

Repeated attempts at reconciliation between the groups have led nowhere, and the collapse of the Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak, which played a key role in reconciliation efforts, has created new uncertainty.

The issue of control of the security forces has been a key stumbling block in each round of reconciliation talks, with both sides refusing to cede authority over their security apparatus.
Hamas responded to the latest calls for unity with suspicion.

"These declarations lack seriousness and credibility, they make no sense in light of the continued arrests and torture (of Hamas members) in Fatah prisons in the West Bank," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Monday.

"The only real way towards reconciliation is to stop the arrests, free the detainees and allow the movement's charities to start helping the Palestinian people again," he told AFP.

Hamas and Fatah have carried out periodic arrests of each other's members, often holding detainees without charge or trial and routinely trading allegations of prisoner abuse.

"The formation of a national unity government can only be achieved in the context of an all-encompassing national solution and not a partial one," Abu Zuhri said, referring to calls for the establishment of a coalition which would rule until parliamentary elections can be held at some point before September.

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