PA says it will try again to mend rift with Hamas

Scheduled meeting between factions in Damascus canceled following heated exchange between Abbas and Assad at Arab summit in Libya.

311_Abbas winking (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Abbas winking
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Palestinian Authority has decided to resume efforts to end the crisis with Hamas, a senior PA official in Ramallah said on Wednesday.
Fatah and Hamas negotiators had been scheduled to meet in Damascus on Wednesday for talks aimed at achieving “national unity,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. However, the meeting was called off following a heated exchange between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad during the recent Arab summit in Libya, the official said.
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According to the official, Assad reprimanded Abbas during the summit and demanded that he halt peace talks with Israel. In addition, the Syrian president reportedly accused Abbas and the Arab League foreign ministers of succumbing to US and Israeli pressure.
“The Syrians offended us,” the PA official, Nabil Sha’ath, explained. “We can’t send our representatives to Damascus in light of what happened in Libya.”
Sha’ath was quoted by the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency as saying “We are ready to go anywhere in the world to meet Hamas except for Syria. We have proposed Beirut, Istanbul and Sana’a as possible venues. I personally prefer Yemen because of its government’s positive attitude toward reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.”
Sha’ath denied that the PA leadership was facing pressure from both Israel and the US not to strike a deal with Hamas. “Let Hamas choose any place it wants and we will go there, even if it’s in Zimbabwe,” he contended.
In the context of his efforts to end the rift with Hamas, Abbas’s office announced he has decided to dispatch two top Fatah officials, Abdullah al-Ifranji and Rouhi Fattouh, to the Gaza Strip for talks with leaders of the Islamist movement and other Palestinian factions on ways of ending the dispute and forming a unity government.
Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said that Fatah rejected a proposal to hold a meeting in the Gaza Strip “after being threatened by the Americans.”
He expressed his party’s readiness to meet with Fatah representatives in any other location.
He also pointed out that the Egyptians refused to host the two rival Palestinian factions for another round of reconciliation talks.
“The Egyptians told Hamas and Fatah to go and talk somewhere else, and to come to Cairo only when they are ready to sign an agreement,” claimed Bardaweel.