UPDATE: Palestinian PM offers to quit after two weeks, says source

AFP , Thursday 20 Jun 2013

Following disagreements with his two deputies, new Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah tenders resignation only two weeks after being sworn in

Rami Hamdallah
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah speaks during a joint news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (not seen) in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in this file picture taken June 19, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah offered his resignation to president Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, just two weeks after he took office, a high-ranking government official told AFP.

Hamdallah "presented his resignation in writing to the president following disagreements with his two deputies," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A separate source in the office of the prime minister said the British-educated Hamdallah had presented his resignation "in protest over a power struggle".

It was not immediately clear whether Abbas was likely to accept the resignation of the highly respected 54-year-old who was named to the position on June 2 following the resignation of Salam Fayyad.

A new 24-member cabinet under Hamdallah's leadership was sworn in on June 6, and notably included the appointment of two deputy prime ministers, Ziad Abu Amr and Mohammed Mustafa.

Mustafa, who heads the Palestine Investment Fund and was handed the role of economic adviser, was initially tipped as a possible successor to Fayyad.

And when the new government was sworn in, it was he who held the first news conference following its initial cabinet meeting on June 11, not Hamdallah, in a move which raised a few eyebrows.

Upon accepting the nomination, Hamdallah, a political independent, quickly pledged to follow a similar path to Fayyad and said he would leave the government line-up largely unchanged.

And he made clear he would quickly step aside in the summer after the formation of a government of national unity comprising Abbas's Fatah party and its Islamist rival, Hamas.

Fayyad himself resigned in mid-April after months of difficult relations with Abbas which hit a crisis over the resignation of finance minister Nabil Qassis, which the premier accepted but the president did not.

That power struggle resulted in Fayyad stepping down but staying on as caretaker prime minister upon Abbas's request, with his term drawing to a close on June 2.

Fayyad was widely respected by the international community for building a sound institutional framework for the Palestinian Authority, and his resignation sparked concern over who would take up his mantle.

But Washington and Europe welcomed the appointment of Hamdallah, who on Wednesday had held his first meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Congratulating him on his new position, Ashton pledged to continue European economic support and also support for the peace process.

"I am very much looking forward to working with you and as I said, I wish you every success," she told him, in remarks communicated by a spokesman.

Fayyad's departure came at a difficult time for Washington as US Secretary of State John Kerry seeks to revive peace talks after a nearly three-year hiatus.

During his last visit at the end of May, Kerry pledged to push through a $4-billion plan to develop the Palestinian economy.

Washington's top diplomat is to return to the region next week to continue pushing the two sides to find a way back to direct negotiations which broke down in September 2010, just weeks after they were relaunched.

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