Palestinian parties agree on elections by end of 2018
Palestinian political parties on Wednesday agreed on the need to hold elections by the end of 2018 after two days of reconciliation talks in Cairo.
The closed-door talks which opened on Tuesday aimed at pushing ahead with reconciliation efforts and were attended by representatives of 13 political parties.
A statement by the political parties called on the electoral commission to prepare for presidential and legislative polls, asking Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to set a date after consulting with all sides.
The factions also praised a unity agreement struck between Fatah and Hamas - the two largest Palestinian parties – last month in a bid to end a 10-year rift between them.
The statement said the Egyptian-sponsored unity deal was a "realistic start to end divisions" which underscored the "importance of removing all obstacles in the path of the government's efforts to immediately assume its responsibilities towards our people".
Under the Egypt-brokered agreement Hamas is supposed to hand over civil control of Gaza to the Fatah-led national government on 1 December.
The Palestinian Authority took control of Gaza's border crossings on 1 November as part of the deal.
There have been no Palestinian parliamentary elections since Hamas took control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007 after bitter fighting following the Islamist group's victory in legislative elections a year prior.
Reconciliation still faces significant stumbling blocks, in particular the future of Hamas's armed wing, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
The Fatah-dominated Palestinian government seated in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah has also refused to remove crippling sanctions on Gaza that include reduced electricity and public sector salary cuts.
Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.