Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Qatari plan for the Palestinian government

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent

Qatar on Tuesday presented the leaders of Hamas and Fatah with a plan for a new Palestinian unity government, which would accept international demands on the recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and compliance with previously signed interim accords.

The proposal also secures the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Palestinian militants in June.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud has agreed to the terms of the new plan, but it is not yet clear whether exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal would do so too.

Palestinian sources said that Meshal had agreed in principle, but senior Hamas officials in Gaza denied the claims, telling Haaretz the movement had never agreed to the proposal.

There were also Palestinian reports saying Abbas had sent an aide to Meshal to finalize the details of the plan.

According to the agreement, the new Palestinian government would accept three terms posed by the Quartet - recognizing Israel, complying with the accords signed in the past and renouncing violence, to enable renewed peace talks.

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani presented the agreement to Abbas and Meshal.

The plan presented by Al-Thani contains six main points:

1) The establishment of a new government headed by an independent figure not identified with any party or faction. This government would include ministers from Hamas, Fatah and other parties as well as independent ministers.

2) A diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the principle of two states for two peoples.

3) Violence between Israel and the Palestinians would be bilaterally and simultaneously halted.

4) The new government would recognize the agreements and obligations signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

5) PLO institutions would be rehabilitated according to the Cairo agreement secured at the beginning of 2005; this would include the absorption of Hamas into PLO institutions. The newly-reconstituted Palestinian National Council would convene within one year.

6) Abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit would be released within the framework of a prisoner exchange agreement.

Meanwhile, the head of the Fatah faction in the PA parliament, Azam al-Ahmed, announced all Palestinian factions except for Hamas have agreed to extend the deadline for the formation of a unity government by two weeks.

Al-Ahmed warned that Abbas would disband the current Hamas government if it failed to form a unity government within two weeks.

He added that negotiations with Hamas and other Palestinian factions were underway and that there was still a possibility to form a unity government before the deadline passed.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Monday that Israel has agreed to release 900 to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women, children and elderly prisoners, as part of a deal to ensure Shalit's release, but Hamas turned down the offer.

Egypt threatened Meshal that if an agreement for prisoner release is not reached by the end of Ramadan - the Muslim month of fast that ends October 22 - the Hamas leader would be held responsible for a wide-scale Israeli military attack in the Gaza Strip.

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