Saturday, October 04, 2008

Palestinian Abbas plans Syria visit

MK Tibi says Palestinian Authority leader to visit Damascus October 12 to discuss Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Damascus this month to discuss efforts to reconcile his Fatah movement with Islamist Hamas rivals and peace talks with Israel, Palestinian officials said on Friday. Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab lawmaker and confidant of Abbas, told Reuters the Palestinian leader would visit Damascus on October 12 for consultations.

Tibi said Abbas has been in close contact with Assad to coordinate positions on issues including efforts to reconcile Fatah with Hamas since the Islamists seized control of Gaza from Abbas last year.

Fatah officials said Egypt would host reconciliation talks among several Palestine Liberation Organisation factions and Hamas on October 14, then submit a report to the Arab League, which has been trying to resolve the feud.

Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator, also confirmed Abbas' plans to meet Assad, saying they would seek to "coordinate positions on all issues."

Abbas' ties with Syria had long been strained over the location of Hamas headquarters in Damascus, but have improved recently with Abbas' visit to Damascus in July and his talks this year with Assad in European and Arab capitals.

Abbas and Assad have each held separate inconclusive talks with Israel in the past year. The talks with Syria were indirect, with Turkish mediation.

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