The two rival Palestinian camps have agreed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
will head an interim unity government that is to lead them to elections.
The announcement was made jointly on Monday by the Western-backed Abbas and Khaled Mashaal,
chief of the Islamic militant Hamas. It marked a major step forward in the rivals' attempt to reconcile, after more than four years of separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza. The deal was brokered by the emir of Qatar.
"We promise our people to implement this agreement as soon as possible," Abbas said.
"We inform our people that we are serious about healing the wounds ... to reunite our people on the foundation of a political partnership, in order to devote our effort to resisting the (Israeli) occupation," added Mashaal.
A Hamas website quoted a source close to the talks as saying Abbas and Mashaal agreed in principle Sunday that Abbas would head the interim government.
Abbas and Mashaal in previous Cairo meeting (Photo: AP)
Hamas, which runs Gaza, had strongly opposed Abbas' initial choice of Salam Fayyad, the head of his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Fayyad, who was appointed prime minister by Abbas in 2007 after Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza, would have to step down if a transitional government is formed.
Fayyad "warmly welcomed" the Qatar agreement, said Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib.
It remains unclear whether the interim government would be acceptable to the West. The United States, Europe and Israel consider Hamas a terror organization, and said they would shun any government that includes members of an unreformed Hamas.
During Sunday's three-hour meeting
in Qatar, Abbas and Mashaal did not discuss the names of other possible members of an interim government, the officials said. The transitional government is to be composed of experts without strong political affiliations.