(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Sunday said there was no reason for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to quit and said that a chance to reach an understanding remained possible.
Abbas said in comments published Saturday that he would quit if Hamas didn't change its ways.
"There is a real chance for dealing with Abu Mazen, and there is no need for such threats to quit," Mashaal told reporters in Damascus, referring to Abbas' warning.
Abbas was quoted as telling Britain's ITV network in an interview to be broadcast Sunday that "we could reach a point where I cannot perform my duty."
In remarks published by the Irish Independent newspaper, he added that "then, I will not continue sitting in this place, against and in spite of my convictions. If I can do something I will continue, otherwise I won't."
Mashaal said the Palestinians can reach an understanding for the benefit of the Palestinian people.
"We respect the (Palestinian) Authority and we are keen to cooperate and deal with Abu Mazen [Abbas], but not if one party imposes its conditions on the other," he said. He made the comments after a meeting in Damascus with Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail.
He played down statements made by Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh in which he said Hamas would establish "peace in stages," based on a a long-term truce, if Israel withdrew to the borders it held before the 1967 war.
"All statements of Hamas leaders do not imply a recognition of Israel," Mashaal said.
He added: "The ball is now in the Israeli court and Israel should recognize the national Palestinian rights and withdraw from occupied territories... Then, Hamas and the Palestinian people will decide on their stands."
Mashaal, who was recently on a tour that included Egypt, Qatar, Sudan, Turkey and Iran, said he would soon visit Saudi Arabia, which he described as "the main supporter of the Palestinian people."
He added that the visit to the kingdom was important "to gain Arab and Islamic support for the Palestinian people and its new government."