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Hamas and Fatah disagree over new consensus government's political platform and foreign minister

Palestinian sources say that the announcement of a new national consensus government, scheduled to take place on Thursday, has been postponed due to a disagreement between Hamas and Fatah over the selection of a foreign minister for the new government.

"The formation of a new government should have been announced today, Thursday, but the failure to agree on the choice of a foreign minister is causing the delay," sources told the Palestinians 48 news website.

The five-week period for forming a unity government, which was specified in the reconciliation agreement signed by the two movements in Gaza on 23 April, has now elapsed.

The same sources explained that Hamas is opposed to the two candidates that were nominated by Fatah for the position of foreign minister: the current foreign minister in Ramallah, Riyad Al-Maliki, and parliamentarian Ziad Abu Amr, the latter who is known for being close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas believes that Abu Amr turned his back on the movement after it had supported him and was the cause behind his success in the 2006 legislative elections. As for Al-Maliki, the movement considers his political stances unacceptable. The reconciliation agreement stipulates that technocrats aligned with neither side should lead the new unity government.

Hamas and Fatah had resolved an earlier disagreement over the position of interior minister, which was ultimately given to Rami Hamdallah, who was also chosen as the prime minister of the new consensus government.

And Abbas had reached a settlement on the disagreement over incumbent Endowment Minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash by assigning him to head a new high authority for Hajj and Umrah, the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah.

Al-Habbash is known for being opposed to Hamas after the movement dismissed him from its membership years ago.

Hamas's Salah Al-Bardawil said that the talks for reaching a settlement over the formation of a government and the completion of the reconciliation agreement are going through a very difficult and critical stage, due to Abbas's insistence on forming a government that adopts his political platform and the absence of Arab financial and political support.

Al-Bardawil told journalists that some of those difficulties are Palestinian and the others are Arab. Palestinians 48 quotes him as saying: "The first obstacle to the talks about the government's formation is Abbas's insistence on imposing certain figures that he wants, such as Al-Maliki, who is unacceptable for us, Hamas. [Abbas] insists that the new government must adopt his political platform. This means that security coordination with the Occupation will be part of its mission, and there will be no limits on negotiations with the Occupation. The third reason is related to the absence of an Arab financial and political network of support for the reconciliation, which leaves the reconciliation in Israel's hands. This is an attempt to push the Palestinian people toward the path adopted by Abbas: recognising Israel and its legitimacy, which will not be accepted by Hamas."

Al-Bardawil said that Hamas gave up positions in the government but it did not give up the movement's political platform and will hold on to resistance.

Despite this gloomy atmosphere, the movement's Gaza-based Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said that a new consensus government would be reached within hours or days.

Abbas spoke with Haniyeh over the phone, in the presence of delegations representing the two movements, to try to put the final touches on a new national consensus government. But, for now, the two movements have not succeeded yet in settling the outstanding disagreements.

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