Abbas 'hopes' for May 4 Palestinian elections

AFP , Monday 28 Nov 2011

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hopes elections would be held on 4 May next year, mentioning that an interim government will be made up of 'technocrats and independent members'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas briefs the media as he attends a news conference in the historic Hofburg palace in Vienna November 28, 2011. Abbas is on a one-day official visit to Austria. (Photo:Reuters)

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Monday he hoped elections would be held on May 4 next year, after what he called "important" talks between his Fatah group and rival Hamas in Cairo.

"I hope, God willing, that the elections will be on May 4," Abbas told reporters during a visit to Vienna after talks with Austrian President Heinz Fischer. The comments followed Abbas's reconciliation talks last week in Cairo with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal aimed at cementing a stalled unity deal signed six months ago.

In Cairo, Abbas and Meshaal approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original deal, saying they would establish a joint government after elections in May 2012.

Hailing a new era of "partnership," they pledged to resolve the issue of political prisoners "within days" and said they would put together a temporary cabinet of independents, to be agreed upon next month.

In Vienna, Abbas stressed that this interim government, paving the way for the parliamentary and presidential elections, would not be dominated by either side.

"The interim government will be made up of technocrats and independent members. ... This will not be a government of either Fatah or of Hamas, but an independent one," Abbas said through a German-speaking interpreter.

Israel has expressed unease at the rapprochement, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman on Thursday saying the closer Abbas gets to Hamas, "the further he moves away from peace."

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Saturday that Israel could cut water and power supplies to the Gaza Strip -- which Hamas controls, while Fatah runs the West Bank -- saying a unity government of Hamas and Fatah "would transform the Palestinian Authority into a terrorist authority."

Abbas also said in Vienna that the refusal of Hamas to recognise Israel could be addressed in the next round of talks between the two groups. "I would wish that Hamas would agree to this," Abbas told reporters. "Maybe this will be an issue to talk about in our next meeting."

He said this was not discussed with Meshaal in Cairo.

"I think these talks were an important step. Of course they did not address all the issues, but both sides clarified their positions," Abbas said. He said Hamas was ready to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders and that resistance would be "peaceful".

The United States and the European Union have said they will not work with a government that includes Hamas unless the Islamists recognise Israel, renounce violence and agree to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

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