Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned on Saturday after a weeks-long falling out with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, despite US efforts for him to stay on.
“Fayyad met Abbas for half an hour in the president’s headquarters in Ramallah in the West Bank and officially handed him his written resignation,” a Palestinian official said.
Abbas tasked Fayyad with the role of caretaker for the current government until a new prime minister is appointed, another official said.
The two men have been at loggerheads amid mounting criticism of Fayyad’s economic policies by Abbas’ ruling Fatah movement, but Washington had lobbied hard for the 61-year-old, US-educated economist to stay on.
Late on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Abbas to press him to find common ground with his prime minister, Palestinian officials said.
Following his resignation, Washington hailed Fayyad as a “strong partner.”
“We recognize the important roles played by both President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, and appreciate both of their efforts as we and others work to support establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “Prime Minister Fayyad has been a strong partner to the international community and a leader in promoting economic growth, state-building and security for the Palestinian people. We look to all Palestinian leaders to support these efforts.”
In Canada, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said he was “saddened and deeply disappointed” about Fayyad’s decision.
Hailing Fayyad as a “trusted and dedicated interlocutor and friend of Canada,” Baird expressed hope that he will “continue to advance the cause of peace and continue to work to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.”
Rumors that Fayyad would either resign or be told to step down by Abbas have been rife in recent weeks after longstanding differences between the two came to a head over the finance portfolio.
Palestinian Finance Minister Nabil Qassis announced on March 2 that he was standing down. Fayyad agreed to the resignation, but Abbas, who was abroad at the time, rejected it.
A senior Palestinian official said Fayyad had had his letter of resignation prepared since March 23, but put off submitting it because of a visit to the region by US President Barack Obama and Abbas’ overseas trips.
Fayyad held the finance portfolio as well as the post of prime minister before Qassis’ appointment in May last year.