Rival Palestinian factions are to sign a long-delayed reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 26, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Monday after meeting Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
"We agreed to hold a meeting for Palestinian factions in Cairo on October 25 before signing a reconciliation agreement on October 26," he told a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh.
The announcement came shortly after Abul Gheit and Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman held talks in Jordan's capital with Abbas, who heads the mainstream Fatah faction.
According to extracts of proposals obtained by AFP, the plan calls for both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held across the Palestinian territories in the middle of 2010.
It also calls for bolstering the Fatah-dominated security forces under Egyptian supervision and the release of prisoners in both the Fatah-run West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Egypt has twice postponed the scheduled date for the signing of a reconciliation agreement because of lingering disagreements between the two main Palestinian factions.
Earlier, Abul Gheit and Suleiman, who is Cairo's pointman on efforts to unite the rival factions, met with Jordan's King Abdullah II, who said Palestinian reconciliation was a "key necessity" to establishing an independent state.
Abul Gheit's announcement comes amid new tension between Abbas's Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the PA's support for delaying the endorsement of a UN report on possible war crimes committed during Israel's Gaza offensive.
The UN Human Rights Council has decided to delay consideration of the report compiled by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.
Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of a Hamas-run government in Gaza, accused the Western-backed Abbas of making the "absurd and criminal" decision to delay endorsement of the report.
"How can the two parties (Fatah and Hamas) sit at one table and sign an agreement in this situation? ... This has placed a heavy obstacle in the way of Palestinian unity," he said.
But Abul Gheit was confident that it would not halt the signing: "I think that the Goldstone issue is not likely to affect Palestinian reconciliation," he said.