Abbas, Mashaal to Meet in Syria

Ad Feedback - RAMALLAH, West Bank - According to senior Fatah officials, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal early next month when he visits Syria.

The meeting will be the first between Abbas and Mashaal since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip last June.

Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a senior advisor to Abbas, said the two leaders would discuss paving the way for the reformation of a PA unity government by finding ways to end the rivalry between the two Palestinian factions.

Abbas recently announced his intention to reopen talks with Hamas, prompted -- at least in part -- by the cease-fire agreement reached with Israel last week.

Speaking with Jerusalem Post correspondent for Palestinian Affairs Khaled Abu Toameh, a senior aide to Abbas said the Egyptian-brokered truce strengthened Hamas.

"The case-fire agreement is very good for Hamas and bad for us [Fatah]," he said. "In the eyes of many Palestinians, Hamas emerged triumphant from the agreement because it hardly made any concessions," Abbas's aide said.

Because of the truce, he said, Abbas has been forced into meeting with Hamas officials.

"Israel has legitimized Hamas," the senior aide said. "We have been calling on the world not to recognize Hamas's illegal coup in the Gaza Strip, but here comes [Prime Minister Ehud]Olmert and turns Hamas into a major player in the Palestinian arena," he said.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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