Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Oct 14 AP
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Photo by AP
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The Palestinians must continue their "resistance" against Israel, Syrian President Bashar Assad said during the recent meeting of the Arab League monitoring committee in Libya.

Assad clashed with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the meeting when the Syrian leader argued that it is not the Arab League's role to grant the Palestinians permission to negotiate with Israel. It is an issue for the Palestinians to decide, he said.

Abbas responded by saying that "the Palestinian problem is an Arab problem, and if the Arab League does not make a decision, it means it is washing its hands of the Palestinian problem."

Assad called on the Palestinians to continue the resistance against Israel instead of discussing the settlement freeze, but was rebuffed by Abbas who said that if he did not insist on a settlement freeze there will be no land left on which to build a Palestinian state.

Friction between leaders

The friction between the two leaders began a day before the summit, over the agreements reached by Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman and with representatives of Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Meshal, who met with Suleiman last month in Saudi Arabia, announced that he agreed to sign the reconciliation agreement with Fatah that had been proposed by Egypt, and with no reservations.

He also suggested that the signing of the agreement be done in Damascus, as that would rally support for the reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions.

While Abbas was quick to express his support for the initiative, Palestinian Authority security forces continued arresting Hamas activists in the West Bank, thus stirring opposition to the deal from Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas sources contend that the arrests were carried out to foil the reconciliation agreement and to enable Abbas to continue the direct talks with Israel without having to take Hamas' view into consideration.

Meshal then proposed that Syria urge the Arab League to invite him to the summit in Libya, to help foster Palestinian reconciliation.

Syria pressed the Arab states to agree but Abbas refused, saying that unless Meshal signed the Egyptian reconciliation proposal, he should not be allowed to participate in the summit.

The Syrian attempt to elevate Meshal's standing to that of Abbas clearly upset the PA president.