April 14, 2013 (TSR-WAFA) – President Abbas accepted the resignation of Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad on Saturday, despite US efforts for him to stay on, official news agency Wafa reported.
“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 on condition of anonymity.
The two men have been at loggerheads amid mounting criticism of the prime minister’s economic policies in the ruling Fatah movement, but Washington has lobbied hard for the 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.
Rumours that Fayyad would either resign or be told to step down by Abbas have been rife in recent weeks after long-standing differences between the two leaders came to a head over the finance portfolio.
Finance minister, Nabil Qassis announced on Mar 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 Mar 23 but put off submitting it because of a visit to the region by US President Barack Obama and Abbas’s overseas trips.
Fayyad held the finance portfolio, as well as the premiership, before Qassis’s appointment in May 2012.
A meeting planned for Thursday at which Fayyad reportedly intended to hand in his resignation was postponed, after Washington insisted that, to the best of its knowledge, the prime minister was “sticking around”.
Last week, the Fatah Revolutionary Council for the first time openly criticised the Fayyad government’s economic policy.
Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is in financial crisis, partly as a result of non-disbursement of promised foreign funding, although the US Congress quietly unblocked $500 million in aid last month.
International community credits Fayyad with building a sound institutional framework for the Palestinian Authority, in the areas of the occupied West Bank under its control.
His resignation could hamper implementation of an agreement with Israel that Kerry announced during a visit this week, to “promote economic development in the West Bank.”
An Israeli government official declined to comment on Fayyad’s resignation.