DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday called for reconciliation between Palestinian factions in a meeting with visiting Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, the state news agency SANA reported.
He stressed "the need to exert every effort to achieve unity among Palestinian ranks as the sole means to recover their rights, notably the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital," it said.
SANA reported that Abbas hailed "the role of Syria in strengthening Arab solidarity, in reunifying the Palestinians and supporting just Palestinian causes."
Abbas was earlier quoted as saying he would also discuss with Assad "peace negotiations with Israel."
Khaled Meshaal, the exiled political chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which seized power in Gaza a year ago during deadly fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Abbas, is based in Syria.
The takeover effectively split the Palestinians into two entities as Abbas security forces fled from the impoverished territory for the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Last month Abbas called for talks with Hamas, breaking with his previous position that the movement must relinquish power in Gaza before any negotiations can take place.
But Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina has ruled out any meeting between Abbas and Meshaal in Damascus, although he stressed that the Palestinian president's offer for talks with Hamas was still on the table.
"There are no arrangements for such any meeting with Hamas leaders or others," Abu Rudeina told reporters in Jordan on Saturday.
A Hamas official denounced the decision.
"The refusal of Abbas to meet with Hamas shows that he is complying with the US policies that rejects (inter-Palestinian) dialogue," the official told AFP.
"We are surprised by this position particularly since last month Abbas launched his initiative (for talks) and Hamas accepted it," he added.
Upon arrival in Syria from neighbouring Jordan, Abbas said he would discuss with Assad "negotiations with Israel, the truce (between Israel and Hamas) and the Palestinian initiative for national unity," SANA reported.
Israel and Syria announced in May that they were holding indirect peace talks brokered by Turkey. Last Thursday, they decided to pursue the talks on a regular basis, according to the Turkish foreign ministry.
Hamas has also agreed to a six-month truce with Israel.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »