Nasser Ishtayeh/AP

Abbas names head of Palestinian unity government

Move follows Hamas-Fatah national reconciliation pact last month, but two sides disagree over foreign minister

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday appointed current Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to be prime minister of the new unity government, in line with last month's agreement between Fatah and Hamas  to name a technocratic government of national reconciliation.

“I hereby appoint Mr. Rami Hamdallah to form the new national consensus transitional government, and wish him all profound success in this hard task,” Abbas said according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Despite agreement over the prime minister, however, officials said some questions remain over remaining unity government posts — with the choice of foreign minister particularly troublesome, according to local reports.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Thursday that negotiations potentially needed “several days” to be finalized, Palestinian news agency Maan News reported.

“The government is ready, but there is only one problem, and that is that Fatah and Hamas reject Riyad al-Maliki as foreign minister, something Abbas is insisting on,” an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said according to Maan News. Maliki has served as foreign minister in the PA since 2007.

A source close to Hamas said the group wanted Ziyad Abu Amer, one of two deputy premiers serving currently under Hamdallah, to be foreign minister.

Political division between the two largest Palestinian parties had lasted seven years, with Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip and Abbas’ Fatah faction in control of the West Bank. But last month, the two groups reached a pact to form a unity government — sparking Israel’s ire.

Israel dropped out of the U.S.-brokered peace talks, which were already stalling over a number disputes between the two sides, saying it would not negotiate with Abbas while the Palestinian leader was reconciling with Hamas — which Israel and Western powers have designated as a terrorist organization.

Although Abbas insists the new government will recognize Israel, Hamas opposes the U.S.-led negotiation process in which Abbas has been involved for the past two decades. The unity government is intended as an interim arrangement pending new Palestinian elections. 

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