Palestinian Factions Agree to Hold General Elections by End of 2018

CAIRO (Reuters) -

Palestinian factions, including rival groups Hamas and Fatah, have agreed to hold a general election by the end of 2018, a joint statement by several groups said on Wednesday following talks in Cairo.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal in October in Cairo-backed talks, after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza, including the key Rafah border crossing, a decade after seizing the enclave in a civil war.

The Palestinian groups in Cairo said they would defer the choice of a final date for the general election to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The statement did not mention whether Hamas and Fatah have reached a detailed agreement on security responsibilities in the enclave, which has so far remained in the hands of Hamas-backed security services.

Israel has said it will not deal with the Palestinian unity government as long as Hamas remains armed and refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist.

The factions did, however, call on Abbas to end sanctions that have been imposed on the impoverished enclave. They have included power cuts and salary reductions of 30 percent to some 60,000 Gazans employed by his Palestinian Authority.

Abbas said previously he would lift the sanctions upon assuming control of Gaza.