After a series of failed attempts by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, rival Palestinian sides Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement in Moscow marking an end to the decade-long disagreement
Fatah and Hamas, the main Palestinian parties have announced that a deal to form a national unity government, prior to holding the elections, has been reached after three days of reconciliation talks in Moscow.
"We have reached agreement under which, within 48 hours, we will call on [Palestinian leader] Mahmoud Abbas to launch consultations on the creation of a government," of national unity, said senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad speaking at a press conference.
After the government is formed, Palestinians would set up a national council, which would also include Palestinians in exile, and hold elections. "Today the conditions for [such an initiative] were better than ever," said Ahmad.
The unofficial talks mediated by Russia began in Moscow on Sunday, with the goal of restoring "unity of the Palestinian people." Representatives from Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other notable factions attended the meeting.
Abbas' secular Fatah and the Islamist Hamas have been at loggerheads since the latter seized control of the Gaza Strip, in a near civil war back in 2007.
Last year, the Palestinian government postponed its first municipal polls in the occupied West Bank and Gaza in 10 years, after the High Court ruled that they should be held only in the Fatah-run West Bank. The last time the Palestinians went to the polls in which both Hamas and Fatah took part, was in 2006.
Fatah has been deeply divided from Hamas with multiple reconciliation attempts having failed. Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has called repeatedly for taking steps to end the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian representatives also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday and asked him to dissuade the incoming U.S. president Donald Trump from carrying out a campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"We sensed understanding on the part of Mr. Lavrov," said Ahmad.
Azzam al-Ahmad Ahmad and Moussa Abu Marzouk of Hamas had spoken derisively of the Quartet, a group involving the U.S., Russia, the EU and U.N., in its years-long effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The Quartet's work completely failed. It was unable to advance the decisions taken by the international community, including [U.N.] resolutions," said Ahmad.
"It is imperative to find a new working mechanism for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said.
Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said he no longer wanted to work with the Quartet but instead with countries and organizations on an individual basis. "Russia can play a substantial role," in the region, he said.
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