The long-awaited visit to Damascus by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is expected to take place on July 17 at the invitation of President Bashar Assad, sources told the Qatari daily Al Watan on Saturday.
"Informed Palestinian sources" told the paper that Arafat's upcoming visit, previously delayed on several occasions, would coincide with the first anniversary of Assad's rise to power.
They said that bilateral consultations were underway to prepare for the visit, which would crown efforts for reconciliation between Damascus and Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA).
The sources added that a high-ranking Palestinian delegation would arrive in Damascus in the coming days.
The paper quoted Syrian sources as stressing that previous postponements were at the request of the Palestinian side, citing remarks by Assad published in the French press in which he “extended an open official invitation to Arafat to visit Damascus [at] the time he decides."
However, the sources said, Arafat and the PA had been under pressure by Western powers not to make the visit because it would "provide the Palestinian Intifada with enough support to survive, and enhance the Palestinian people's ability to resist the Zionists’ plans."
Arafat visited Damascus last year to offer condolences to Assad upon the death of his father, Syria’s previous president.
The two leaders also met on the sidelines of the Arab summit in Amman this March - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )