GAZA CITY (AFP) — The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza on Sunday said it would attend a conference to be held in Syria in November to rival a US-sponsored international Middle East peace meet.
“Hamas and (its political supremo) Khaled Meshaal will participate in this conference in Damascus,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
Zuhri said the aim of the rival meeting “is to reaffirm our rights, including Jerusalem and refugees, and to reject any attempts to strip us of any of our rights, especially the attempt to do so at the international conference.”
The rival Islamic Jihad group said it would organise the conference on November 7 in the Syrian capital, ahead of the US meeting expected to take place in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Fatah party of president Mahmud Abbas slammed the rival meeting, calling it illegal.
“Any public or official conference without the participation of president Abu Mazen and the executive committee of the PLO is illegal,” said Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdelrahman in a statement. “Our Syrian brothers cannot accept any conference against the PLO.”
Most of the international community recognises the PLO, headed by Abbas, as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
Washington had called the autumn conference amid its increased efforts to jumpstart stalled peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians but no date or venue has been confirmed.
Hamas, which is considered a terror group by Israel and has been boycotted by the Palestinian Authority since it violently seized power in Gaza in June, has called on Arab countries to boycott the US meeting.
Syria, which Washington said it would invite to the conference, has warned that it would not attend unless the overall Israeli-Arab conflict was discussed, including Syria’s Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in 1981.