RAMALLAH — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamist Hamas group ruling Gaza on Saturday each strongly denied responsibility for the failure of national reconciliation efforts.
"Reconciliation means elections, and wanting to establish an independent emirate in Gaza will not work," Abbas said in a televised speech, addressing himself directly to Hamas leaders in the Gaza enclave.
"Reconciliation will not be achieved until the electoral commission has started recording [voters] in Gaza so elections can take place three months later," he said.
Abbas also said Ismail Haniyeh, who heads the Hamas government in Gaza, "has no right to represent Palestine abroad as prime minister, but as a leader of Hamas," referring to his intention to attend last month's Non-Alignment Summit in Tehran.
Haniyeh abandoned the plan after Abbas threatened to boycott the gathering.
Hamas on Saturday dismissed Abbas' comments.
"Abbas has completed his mandate as per the law and there is no president in the context of national [Palestinian] consensus," Hamas spokesman Taher Al Nunu told AFP.
"Abbas is trying to raise tension against Hamas to divert public opinion from the domestic crisis," he said, referring to social unrest in the West Bank.
On July 2, the Hamas government "temporarily" halted voter registration just over a month after granting the electoral commission permission to work in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian government in the West Bank on July 10 said it would hold local elections in October across the Palestinian territories, sparking anger from Hamas.
In April 2011, the ruling Fateh Party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a reconciliation deal with its Hamas rivals who govern Gaza in a move aimed at ending years of rivalry.
But the deal was never implemented, with the factions falling out over plans to set up a caretaker Cabinet of independents which was to have prepared the way for presidential and legislative elections within a year.