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Syria to officially invite Fatah to Damascus

Oct. 22, 2010 12:48 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 24, 2010 9:10 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Syria will officially invite Fatah to continue Palestinian reconciliation talks in Damascus as a dispute between the two has been resolved, sources told Ma'an.

A meeting was scheduled to be held in the Syrian capital on Wednesday, but Fatah delayed the meeting over a perceived snub at the recent Arab League summit in Sirtre, Libya.

Fatah officials had been offended when Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad urged President Mahmoud Abbas to stop preventing attacks on Israel from the West Bank at the summit. Fatah leader Nabil Sha'ath said it would be difficult to send a delegation to Damascus "after the Syrians humiliated us in their speech."

Factions to meet in Gaza

Meanwhile, Abbas' advisor Abdullah Al-Ifranji said Friday that a Fatah visit to Gaza would go ahead as planned on Sunday.

Fatah officials said Wednesday that a delegation would visit the Strip to improve the atmosphere ahead of reconciliation meetings aimed to end years of internal Palestinian rivalry. However Hamas leader Ayman Taha said Thursday that the meeting had been indefinitely postponed to avoid creating "the impression that such a meeting would substitute for the Damascus talks."

Al-Ifranji said Friday that the Gaza visit was not an alternative to the next round of talks, but rather a meeting to overcome obstacles that might obstruct achieving national unity.

Hamas responds to Damascus rift

Hamas expressed mixed reactions to Fatah's request to change the location of the next round of talks.

Senior Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya said the Islamist movement was "adamant" that the meeting should be held to discuss a unity deal and urged Fatah "to give up on its request to change the meeting place, because it harms us as Palestinians." He added, "We insist on holding the meeting in the same place as agreed as we fail to find any justification for their request," he said.

Hamas official Ismael Radwan said Wednesday that while it was "strange" that Fatah wanted to change the meeting place, Hamas would meet wherever Fatah preferred. Radwan also speculated that the last-minute request was an attempt to obstruct the deal.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said of the delay, "this is suspicious and poses question marks."

Meanwhile, Sha'ath said Fatah would go to "any place in the world rather than Damascus." He added, "Let Hamas select any place, and we will go right now even if that place was Zimbabwe."

Egypt has been mediating a reconciliation deal between the two movements since 2007, shortly after President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the newly-formed coalition government when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a near civil war coup the same year.

Fatah ratified the deal in October 2009, but has Hamas said it had several amendments to the deal it wanted to discuss before signing it. Following a successful meeting in Damascus, consensus was reached on all matters except for security, which is the final issue stalling Hamas' ratification of the Egyptian proposal.

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