The meeting scheduled between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has been postponed, a senior member of a Palestinian faction said Saturday. "There will be no meeting today," the Palestinian faction official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "There are difficulties facing such a meeting and there are current mediations to try and resolve the problems," he added, without elaborating. He said it was possible that the meeting would be held Sunday. Abbas arrived in Syria on Saturday and began a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Abbas had been expected to meet with Mashaal later in the evening. According to senior Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan, Abbas and Mashaal will discuss the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who has been in Hamas captivity for nearly seven months, when they do manage to set up a meeting. A Hamas official said that Abbas and Mashaal would also discuss possible candidates for the positions of interior minister, foreign minister, and finance minister in a unity PA government. Independent Palestinian legislator Ziad Abu Amr, who has been mediating between Abbas and Mashaal, said Thursday that a meeting would focus on efforts to form a PA unity government and to end the violence between Hamas and Fatah.
The First Word: Our bloodletting must stop (column)
Abu Amr denied reports in the Palestinian media that his recent talks in Damascus with Mashaal had failed. He said Mashaal expressed readiness to meet with Abbas to try to prevent an all-out confrontation between Fatah and Hamas.
"Hamas still hasn't changed its position regarding the proposed unity government," he said. "If anything, the meeting could ease tensions between the two parties, and this is good enough."
The Syria talks follow a meeting on Friday between Abbas and Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackay, in which Abbas reiterated his opposition to drawing temporary borders for a Palestinian state.
Also on Saturday, Dahlan chastised Palestinian armed factions who fire rockets at Israel.
In an interview to Palestinian television, Dahlan characterized firing rockets from civilian homes as a "cowardly act, that irresponsibly exposes Palestinian children and property to the occupier's cannons and guns."