Assad calls for Palestinian unity as Abbas refuses to meet Hamas chief
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday called for reconciliation between Palestinian factions in a meeting with visiting Palestinian president 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 Hamas is based in Syria. But Abbas' 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. On the indirect peace negotiations between Syria and Israel under Turkish mediation, Abu Rudeina said Abbas had stressed to Assad that any progress on this track could boosts the Palestinian stance in the negotiations with Israel.
Upon arrival in Syria, 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.