Abbas to hold talks in Syria on inter-Palestinian dialogue

Other News Materials 6 July 2008 15:04 (UTC +04:00)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to arrive in Syria Sunday for talks on the prospects of reconciliation talks with the Hamas militant movement but he had no plans to meet any of the group's leaders based in Damascus.

Syria provides asylum to Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal whose group ousted Abbas' supporters from the rival Fatah faction from the Gaza Strip after internecine clashes in June last year.

The militant group has controlled the territory ever since, effectively splitting the Palestinian territories into two separate entities, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Arab initiatives to reconcile the rival factions have yielded little result, but last month Abbas and Mashaal signalled their readiness for reconciliation talks.

A close aide of Abbas, however, ruled out any meeting with Mashaal in Damascus.

"There are no arrangements for a meeting between the president and any of the Hamas leaders in Damascus," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu- Rudeina said Saturday.

Abbas and Mashaal have not met since their last talks in February last year in Saudi Arabia, which mediated a deal for the formation of a Palestinian national unity cabinet. The short-lived deal was followed by the outbreak of violence in Gaza on June 14 last year.

Mashaal, according to the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, presented a document to Syrian officials in which he laid down the basis for a "vital" rather than a "nominal" dialogue awith Abbas.

According to the document, the unity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is the mainstay of any dialogue with Abbas' Fatah faction.

Mashaal wants one Palestinian authority and one government for both the West Bank and Gaza, which would respect democratic rules and the outcome of the democratic process.

This is a reference to the outcome of the last Palestinian elections, which brought Hamas to power in March 2006.

Hamas is also proposing a restructuring of the Palestinian security bodies on professional rather than factional bases.

The document foresees the formation of a transitional government entrusted with the task of achieving national reconciliation and holding presidential and parliamentary elections, dpa reported.