Arafat to Visit Syria ahead of Amman Arab Summit
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is expected to visit Syria for talks with President Bashar Assad ahead of the Arab summit in Amman in March, Palestine's ambassador to Jordan, Omar Khatib, was quoted as saying by AFP Monday.
"President Arafat will soon visit Damascus for talks with President Assad," Khatib told AFP.
"There is a crisis in the region resulting from the election in Israel of Ariel Sharon to the post of prime minister and it calls for the closing of Arab ranks," Khatib said.
The visit will take place at an unspecified date ahead of the March 27 Arab summit, Khatib said, adding that it has been preceded by "Palestinian-Syrian contacts over the past months."
Arafat last traveled to Damascus in June to attend the funeral of the late Syrian president Hafez Assad. He met briefly with his successor Bashar.
Relations between Arafat and Syria have been chronically strained since the Palestinians signed separate peace accords with Israel in Oslo in 1993.
Late president Hafez Assad had considered Arafat as an embodiment of Arab surrender.
"I am not Anwar Sadat, and it is not my ambition to become Yasser Arafat," Assad was quoted as saying after returning from a failed summit with former US President Bill Clinton in Geneva last March.
In July, Syria refused to receive Arafat who was on a world tour to muster support for the Palestinians after the break up of talks with the Israelis.
But after the outbreak of the Intifada, Arafat telephoned Assad to discuss what they described as "crimes" committed by Israel against the Palestinians.
The call was the first contact between the two leaders since the death of President Hafez - Albawaba.com
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