Palestinian groups to meet in Syria on Jan. 23

PFLP official says meeting to be titled: "Sticking to the nat'l rights of the Palestinian people."

PFLP DFLP 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
PFLP DFLP 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Syria-based Palestinian factions opposed to peace with Israel decided Wednesday to hold their regional conference later this month in the Syrian capital, a Palestinian official said. The meeting - which initially was envisaged as the radical Palestinians' rival to the US-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland - will take place Jan. 23-25th here, said Talal Naji, a ranking official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The meeting was first announced in October, then postponed for November, but failed to take place at the same time as the Annapolis conference. Naji said the Damascus meeting would be titled: "Sticking to national rights of the Palestinian people: national unity is the road to liberation and return." Invitations would be sent to "all Palestinian factions," Naji said, including Fatah, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Council. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US allies in the Arab world have criticized the announced meeting in Syria, but that criticism was rejected by the deputy head of the radical Hamas in Damascus, Moussa Abu Marzouk. Syria is home to the exiled leaders of Hamas, and also based in Damascus are the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PFLP-General Command and five other smaller factions. Abu Marzouk said before Annapolis that the purpose of the Damascus gathering was "to send a clear message to the international community and the United States that ... (Abbas) does not represent the Palestinian people in these negotiations." Syria wields huge influence on Palestinian factions opposed to Abbas and US-led Mideast peacemaking, but it is not clear whether it played a role in getting the hard-line factions to postpone their meeting for after Annapolis.