Abbas hails 'end' of Palestinian division as new government takes oath

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (centre) waves during the swearing-in ceremony of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 2, 2014. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed the "end" of Palestinian divis
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (centre) waves during the swearing-in ceremony of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 2, 2014. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed the "end" of Palestinian division as a new government took its oath on Monday under a unity deal between leaders in the West Bank and Gaza. -- PHOTO: AFP

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed the "end" of Palestinian division as a new government took its oath on Monday under a unity deal between leaders in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case," Mr Abbas said at his Ramallah headquarters after the new cabinet was sworn in.

"This black page in the history (of the Palestinians) has been turned forever, and we will not allow it to come back," he said.

Gaza's Hamas rulers also welcomed the new government as one for "all Palestinians" after the cabinet, which is made up of political independents, was sworn in. "We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

The new government, he said, was "a turning point... enabling us to unite the Palestinian effort to face the Israeli occupation".

The Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is dominated by Mr Abbas's Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation deal with Islamist rivals Hamas on April 23 that aimed to end a years-long intra-Palestinian split.

The deal gave the sides five weeks to appoint an interim "independent government" of technocrats, paving the way for elections within six months.

Hamas won a landslide victory in the last parliamentary elections in 2006. But the European Union and the United States have refused to have any dealings with the Islamist movement until it renounces violence, recognises Israel and accepts past agreements.

Representatives of the rival factions have held several rounds of talks to heal the rift which turned violent when Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza in deadly clashes in 2007.

The April reconciliation deal incensed Israel, putting the final nail in the coffin of nine months of US-brokered peace talks.