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Abbas in Syria for talks

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in Damascus for crucial talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Khaled Meshaal, the chief of Hamas, a key Palestinian militant group.

Upon his arrival in the Syrian capital on Saturday, Mr. Abbas said he had many common issues to discuss with the Syrians "and it's high time to discuss these issues."

Mr. Abbas' meeting with Mr. Meshaal — the first in over a year, is expected to focus on the formation of the Palestinian national unity government.

However, there are three major issues which need to be settled before tangible progress can be achieved.

First, to enable the formation of a new government where representatives of Hamas and Mr. Abbas' Fatah movement would be present, Hamas has to endorse the peace agreements that the Palestinians and Israelis have signed.

Second, foreign aid donors including the Americans and the Europeans have been demanding that Hamas should renounce violence.

On Friday, Israel released $100 million of Palestinian funds to Mr. Abbas.

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