Report: Abbas to Meet Meshal in Bid to Renew Fatah-Hamas Dialogue

Palestinian president drops long-held demand for Hamas to relinquish control over Gaza before talks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet in the coming weeks with top Hamas official Khaled Meshal in Damascus, a Lebanese daily reported on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the first time for renewed dialogue with Hamas without demanding the militant Islamic group first relinquish control of Gaza.

Referring to the latest attempt to bridge the rift, he called for "national dialogue to implement the Yemeni initiative in all its elements, to end the internal division that harms our people, [our] cause," Abbas made the comments in a broadcast speech to his people on Wednesday evening.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu welcomed the call for talks.

"We welcome this call by the President Abbas to launch a national dialogue, and we consider it a positive step," he said.

Abbas said if the talks succeed, I will call for new legislative and presidential elections. Abbas won an election to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, but Hamas swept his Fatah Part out of power in a 2006 election.

Abbas' speech came a year after Hamas seized control of Gaza by force, ousting his security forces. In response, Abbas fired the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, and appointed a government of moderates in the West Bank.

Since then, Hamas has become increasingly entrenched in Gaza, despite a sweeping international boycott that kept Gaza's borders virtually closed and drove the territory's 1.4 million residents deeper into poverty.

Over the past year there have been several efforts, notably by Egypt, to repair the rift between the two rivals, but to no avail.