Abbas Thanks Assad for Syria's Support of Palestinians

Phone conversation between leaders comes as report claims French envoy will be arriving at Damascus to try and restart Israel-Syria peace talks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas briefed his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad on Friday on recently relaunched peace talks with Israel, thanking the Syrian president for what Abbas called his support of the Palestinian people, channel 10 reported.

Mahmoud Abbas Reuters August 20, 2010

The phone conversation between the two leaders took place against the backdrop of U.S. efforts to relaunch direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and subsequent reports of possible efforts to renew negotiations between Israel and Syria as well. 

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir reported on Friday that French Middle East envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran was scheduled to visit Damascus in the coming days to meet with both Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in order to discuss the possibility of peace talks between Syria and Israel.

According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, the Palestinian Authority president called Assad on the occasion of the Muslim Eid el Fitr holiday which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Abbas thanked Assad for his support during "this important period in our history," and briefed him on the events of a September 2 summit in Washington, which was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

On Thursday, Abbas called President Shimon Peres to offer greetings for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. During the telephone conversation, Peres pleaded with Abbas to "trust Netanyahu."

Peres urged the Palestinian president "not to abandon the talks before peace is achieved. There is no one more suited than you to achieve peace for your people, and for the entire region."

Abbas and other senior Palestinian negotiators have threatened to quit the U.S.-backed negotiations if Israel should resume construction in West Bank settlements. Last November, Netanyahu declared a 10-month moratorium on construction in settlements, but the freeze is set to expire at the end of this month, and it is not yet clear whether it will be renewed.

"Even if things don't appear perfect," Peres told Abbas, "the path toward peace and an independent Palestinian state is certainly preferable to an ongoing conflict and bloodshed. Even if there will be crises and disagreements, and the road will seem imperfect, I'm sure that new and creative solutions can be achieved."

Abbas replied that "we're serious and our goal is to achieve a peace agreement as soon as possible." To this Peres responded saying "I'm sure Netanyahu is a trustworthy partner."