President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new Palestinian unity government on Monday backed by both Fatah and Hamas in a major step toward ending a crippling political split among Palestinians, but one that could cause new friction with Israel.
Abbas, who heads the mainstream Fatah movement, has said the 17-member cabinet would be comprised of unaffiliated ministers and that it would strive to pursue peace, despite Hamas's refusal to accept co-existence with Israel.
Ministers in the new administration took the oath of office in a ceremony in Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Three ministers from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip were denied entry to the West Bank by Israel.
“Today, and after announcing the government of national unity, we declare the end of division that caused catastrophic harm to our cause,” Abbas said.
The brief ceremony was preceded by last-minute haggling over the makeup of the cabinet, signaling the continued tensions between the long-time rivals.
The Islamic militant Hamas group, which seized the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces in a brief civil war in 2007, had demanded that Abbas reverse a decision to remove the position of the minister of prisoner affairs from the government.
Just minutes before the start of the swearing-in ceremony, Hamas officials said that the dispute was resolved, though the nature of the compromise was not immediately clear.
Israel: New government will ‘strengthen terrorism’
Israel is firmly against the new government and broke off peace talks with Abbas when the agreement to form a unity government with Hamas was first announced in April.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday urged world leaders not to rush into recognising the new Palestinian government, saying it would serve as a front for Hamas and “strengthen terrorism”.
At the inauguration ceremony, Abbas said the new government would abide by commitments made by previous Palestinian administrations and by agreements ratified by the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, a reference to interim accords with Israel.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who spearheaded the failed peace talks, spoke by telephone with Abbas and voiced his concern about Hamas’s role in the government, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“The secretary stated that the United States would monitor the situation closely and judge any government based on its composition, policies, and actions,” she added.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-02