Palestinians mull ways to revive national parliament

Factions agreed to form Central Election Commission

CAIRO - Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo were mulling on Wednesday ways to reactivate their national parliament, which has been paralysed since 2007 following the split between the West Bank and Gaza.
All the main factions, led by the former rivals Hamas and Fatah, are meeting in the Egyptian capital to thrash out ways of implementing a reconciliation deal that was signed in May but has never been implemented.
On Wednesday, they were discussing how to reactivate the work of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), which has not passed a single law since 2007, when Hamas forced Fatah forces out of Gaza, splitting the Palestinian territories into two rival administrations.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement, was to arrive in Cairo later on Wednesday, as was Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, with the two expected to hold talks during the evening, officials said.
On Tuesday, delegates had agreed to set up a new electoral commission and also set a deadline for the formation of a caretaker cabinet of independents as envisaged in the May agreement.
During the talks, the factions agreed to form a nine-member Central Election Commission under the committee's current head, Hanna Nasser.
Abbas, who has said elections will be held in May, will have to approve the composition of the CEC, Fatah delegation head Azzam al-Ahmed said.
Despite the success of Tuesday's talks, the factions have postponed debate on two key issues: formation of an interim government and unifying the disparate security forces, Ahmed said.
"Regarding the cabinet, delegates agreed on the need to form a government of national consensus by the end of next month at the latest," he said.
Talks were underway "to resolve the problem of the government," while a reform of the security services would only be tackled after a cabinet had been put together, he added.
Hamas confirmed the Fatah timeline in a statement saying it also hoped "to secure the release of political prisoners before the end of January."
On Thursday, Abbas will preside over a high-level meeting to discuss reforming the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join.
Meshaal and Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shallah will also attend the talks alongside all the other faction heads, members of the PLO Executive Committee and the speaker of the Palestinian National Council, Selim Zaanoun.
The May reconciliation deal, signed by the two former rivals called, for the establishment of a caretaker cabinet which would prepare for legislative and presidential elections within a year.
Abbas and Meshaal last met on November 24 in Cairo when they approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original deal.