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Abbas ready to delay new government, give Hamas chance to join

From Kareem Khadder, CNN
Palestinians demonstrated for unity between Fatah and Hamas in Nablus in the northern West Bank on Tuesday.
Palestinians demonstrated for unity between Fatah and Hamas in Nablus in the northern West Bank on Tuesday.
  • Abbas says he is willing to go to Gaza for talks about reconciling Fatah and Hamas
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh had extended an invitation to Abbas
  • The moves came after protesters, mainly young people, called for reconciliation
  • Palestine
  • West Bank
  • Gaza

(CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he is ready to visit Gaza immediately in an effort to end the internal political division between the two main Palestinian political parties, Hamas and Fatah.

His statement came a day after Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza, extended an invitation to Abbas as tens of thousands of Palestinians protestors in both the West Bank and Gaza demanded an immediate end to the internal Palestinian division.

In an address broadcast from his presidential compound in Ramallah in the West Bank, Abbas told a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council that he is ready to meet with Hamas leadership.

"I am ready to go to Gaza tomorrow for the sake of ending the division and forming a government," Abbas said

"I am not going to Gaza for negotiations, I am going to Gaza for the formation of a government and to agree on the presidential and legislative elections and formation of a national council within six months or the nearest time frame, under the auspices of the United Nations and the Arab League and the Islamic league and the international humanitarian rights organization."

Abbas said he is ready to postpone the formation of a new government if he reaches an agreement with Hamas this week. He previously had promised elections in the West Bank no later than September.

In Gaza, Haniyeh welcomed Abbas' response and called on the Hamas government to follow up with the appropriate arrangements for the visit.

Mohamad Shtayeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, told CNN that this could be "the last opportunity for a Palestinian reconciliation." He added that the Palestinian president's statement came as a direct response to Palestinian youth who have been demanding an immediate end to the split between Fatah and Hamas.

"I think the international community should encourage this because ending the situation in Gaza will help us achieve a two-state solution" in relation to Israel, Shtayeh added. "Having Hamas on board, it will definitely help the negotiations in the future."

"We ... called for elections and now the president is ready to go to Gaza and sit down with Hamas people and really close this black chapter in the history of Palestine," he said.

The split developed after clashes between Hamas and Fatah in 2007 that led to Hamas seizing control in Gaza, and Fatah maintaining control of the West Bank.