Palestine: Political factions agree to hold elections by end of 2018

Rival Palestinian political groups agreed Wednesday in Cairo to hold by the end of next year elections as a way to cement reconciliation between the different factions.

The factions had been in Egyptian capital since Tuesday to continue talks for effective reconciliation since 2007 after Gaza ruler Hamas flashed out West Bank-based rival Fatah following 2006 elections won by the Islamist movement.

The factions in Cairo called the electoral commission to prepare for the presidential and legislative polls and also asked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to set a date for them after consulting with all sides, reports say.

The Cairo talks were closed to media, but were attended by representatives of 13 political parties.

The rival groups have begun reconciliation talks under Egyptian auspices since October. Under agreements already reached, Hamas has agreed to relinquish the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian authority (PA) dominated by the Fatah on December 1.

The PA has already taken control of Gaza crossings since November 1.

Participants in the Cairo talks praised the unity deal as “realistic start to end divisions” which underscored the “importance of removing all obstacles in the path of the government’s efforts to immediately assume its responsibilities towards our people”.

Despite laudable progress in the talks, numerous roadblocks stand in the way for an effective reconciliation. Hamas has been reluctant to disarm as it maintained that it remains determined to fight its enemy Israel.

The PA has also refused to remove crippling economic sanctions imposed on Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to foot Gaza’s electricity bills and pay salaries of workers hired by Hamas.

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