New Palestinian unity gov’t will not handle peace talks: Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - YOUM7 (Archive)
By NOURHAN MAGDI

CAIRO: The new Palestinian unity government sworn in Monday will be committed to past political programs and will not be responsible for peace talks, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas addressed the Palestinian public in a speech following a ceremony where 17 ministers were sworn into the new cabinet, as he explained the government’s future role.

“The government that starts its work today is an interim body that will function in preparation for [presidential and parliamentary] elections,” Abbas said. “While for political negotiations, these will be the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, which is the only legitimate representative for the Palestinians.”

Abbas also said he appreciated the support shown by Arab countries for the reconciliation steps achieved so far, as well as the stances of the European Union and Russia, and positive indications made by the United States.

Badr Abdel Aty, a spokesperson for Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, welcomed the announcement of the new Palestinian government, and called it an important step in support of Palestinian unity.

In his press statements Monday, Aty said the announcement will help restore the legal rights of Palestinians, including the right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian political analyst Abdel Raziq Gazar told ONTV Monday that “the formation of the government is a first step to end the state of division between Fatah and Hamas.”

It was reported Monday that there was a last minute dispute in the unity deal, as Hamas reportedly refused the new unity government due to the absence of an independent ministry for prisoner affairs.

Hamas spokesman Samy Abu Zuhry had said in an earlier press statement that Hamas would refuse the new government if it did not include a Ministry for Prisoner Affairs.

The dispute was first resolved when the prisoner file was given to Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, but then the portfolio’s responsibility was handed to the Ministry of Agriculture, MENA quoted the WAFA Palestinian news agency as saying.

“This Palestinian consensus sends a message to the Israeli blackmail and strengthens President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians,” said Fatah spokesman Osama el-Qawasmy on ONTV.

As Israel has already announced its boycott of the new government, Abbas said in his speech that “the Israeli statements show the real intentions of the occupation, which aims to disrupt the unity of our people, continue confiscating land, building settlements and ‘jew-ifying’ Jerusalem.”

“We will not stand with arms folded as [Israel] poses more mass sanctions and we will respond to [Israeli statements] with political, diplomatic and legal methods,” Abbas added.

He further said that the Israeli campaign failed to convince the international community with its settlements, occupation and apartheid, “as the [international community] appreciates what we provided to continue the peace process.”

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