Palestinian factions reach historic reconciliation over polls

Leaders of a dozen Palestinian factions, including the two main rivals Fatah and Hamas, have concluded a two-day reconciliation dialogue in Egypt and agreed to cooperate to in holding the general elections this year.

The agreement will hopefully end a 14-year rift between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah and the Islamic Hamas movement that controls the Gaza Strip, reports Xinhua news agency.

“National partnership is a complete path that starts with the legislative council elections, which is the first stage of the national council elections, followed by the elections for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority,” the factions said in an agreement issued here late Tuesday night.

In a presidential decree issued last month, Abbas announced that the legislative elections will be held on May 22, presidential elections on July 31, and the Palestinian National Council elections on August 31.

Jibril Rajoub, Secretary General of the Central Committee of Fatah, told Xinhua that the factions are committed to the timetable for holding the general elections in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip .

Rajoub, also head of the Fatah delegation to the dialogue, said all factions have vowed to respect the outcome of the general elections.

“The factions have agreed to draw a roadmap for the next stage, and all we need is to have a confidence in what has been achieved in the two-day dialogue in Cairo,” the senior Palestinian official concluded.

“Today, we can say it’s the beginning of a new history made by the Palestinian political forces toward turning a new page in national relations and putting an end to the black stage of division, which cost our people a lot of suffering,” said Ahmed Majdalani, secretary general of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), one of the participating factions.

“Undoubtedly, reconciliation and end of division would put the Palestinian cause in the centre of international attention at a time of many ongoing regional and international changes,” the PPSF chief told Xinhua in Cairo after the dialogue.

The Palestinian factions also agreed to create an encouraging “atmosphere of political freedom” for elections by releasing those detained over factional backgrounds or political opinions and stopping prosecution of citizens for their political affiliations or views.

The last legislative elections in the Palestinian territories were held in late 2006 when Hamas won a majority.

Abbas was elected as the President of the Palestinian Authority in 2005.

The internal Palestinian division between Hamas and Fatah began in 2007 when the former forcibly took over Gaza from the latter.

Since then, the Palestinian territories have been split into a Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and a Fatah-dominated West Bank.