Top officials from Fatah and Hamas on Sunday struck a deal to push forward reconciliation efforts between the rival Palestinian factions, a Fatah official said.
Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said the accord, reached under Egyptian mediation, was signed between himself and Mussa Abu Marzuk, the deputy of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
"We signed... an agreement stipulating that the electoral commission will start its work on May 27 in the Gaza Strip and to launch consultations to set up a government of independents," Ahmed told AFP from Cairo.
The Egyptian intelligence services, in a statement, confirmed the agreement that the electoral commission would start its work in the Gaza Strip, and that talks on the formation of a government headed by president Mahmud Abbas would begin on the same day.
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Hamas and Fatah have been struggling to forge such a government after the surprise announcement in April 2011 of a reconciliation deal between the two factions.
The agreement called for the creation of an interim cabinet of independents selected by the two factions, which would prepare for elections that were scheduled to happen by May 2012.
The deal has largely stalled amid a bitter dispute between the two sides on several issues, namely who should assume the post of prime minister.
Earlier this month the Palestinian president, who also heads Fatah, said the impasse had left his administration paralysed, spurring him to call for the formation of a new cabinet.
On May 16 a 25-member government, including returning prime minister Salam Fayyad, was sworn in at a ceremony in the West Bank town of Ramallah, in a move that has angered the Islamist Hamas government in Gaza.
In February, Abbas and Meshaal had agreed during talks in Qatar that the Palestinian president would head a transitional government of independents tasked with organising elections, in line with the term of the 2011 reconciliation deal.