Fatah-Hamas deal reflects Syrian weakness: Iraq

5th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The reconciliation deal signed by rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah reflects Syria's weakening hand in the region, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari suggested Thursday.

If "the head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has gone from Damascus to Cairo to sign a peace agreement with the head of Fatah" Mahmud Abbas, it means that the Islamists are "sensing that change is underway in Syria", the minister told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The Damascus regime, which is facing strong internal opposition from protesters, has long backed the hard-line Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip.

Fatah, the more secular Palestinian group, which controls the West Bank and is internationally recognized, on Wednesday signed a deal in Cairo with Hamas to end years of bitter rift and prepare for new elections in the Palestinian territories.

The deal was expected to be discussed in Paris later on Thursday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and by Abbas and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin the same day.

Zebari, who held talks Wednesday in Berlin with German counterpart Guido Westerwelle, also suggested that the Syrian regime would find it difficult to remain in power given the strength of protests against it.

"I'm not a political analyst, I'm foreign minister of Iraq ... but it's going to be difficult to keep the (Syrian) regime in place," he told the newspaper.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had not acted fast enough to bring in reforms, Zebari said.

"If Assad ... had announced credible and strong reforms, things might have gone differently. But instead, he handed over responsibility for introducing reforms to committees and sub-committees", Zebari said.

And now that "blood has been shed, it will be difficult simply to turn the page," the Iraqi minister added, speaking of the bloody clampdown underway in Syria.

© 2011 AFP

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