Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Arab sources have informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the message that Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby announced that he had given to Hamas chief Khalid Meshal to pass on to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad never reached him.
During a joint-press conference held in Cairo between the Hamas chief and the Arab League Secretary-General on 6 January 2012, Elaraby announced that Meshal would be passing on a message from him to the Syrian president; however Arab sources have now revealed that the Syrian regime refused to transfer this message to the Syrian president, viewing this as “interference in internal Syrian affairs.”
During the press conference, the Arab League Secretary-General had announced “I gave him [Meshal] a message today to the Syrian authorities that it is necessary to work with integrity, transparency and credibility to halt the violence that is taking place in Syria.” This was after Arab League monitors had been dispatched to the country, and a suicide bomber in Syria’s capital Damascus killed 25 people.
Elaraby also told reporters that Meshal had played a key role in convincing Syria to sign the Arab League protocol. Meshal, speaking alongside Elaraby, said Hamas had been working to bring an end to the crisis in Syria through diplomacy.
However a source close to the Hamas chief informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Meshal did not try to meet with al-Assad on his return to Damascus, but instead met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who he passed this message on to.
According to the Arab source, Meshal’s actions in Cairo served as a source of embarrassment for the Hamas movement, not least because many senior Hamas members – including Meshal himself – live in Syria as guests of the al-Assad regime, whilst the majority of other Palestinian factions are of the view that the Palestinians should not get involved with the Syrian crisis, as this could serve as a pretext for Syrian intervention in Palestinian affairs. The Arab source also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that this message was viewed as representing interference in internal Syrian affairs, particularly as the Hamas movement is a guest in Syria, and so is in no position to get involved in Syrian affairs in this manner.
Senior Palestinian figures strongly criticized Hamas chief Khalid Meshal for his involvement in this issue, particularly PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo. Abed Rabbo stressed that Meshal had “no right to mediate on behalf of any regime – Syrian or any other”.
The source also revealed that this response led Hamas to stress that Meshal’s latest visit to Cairo has nothing to do with the situation in Syria, or the issue of Hamas mediation.
When asked to comment on the fate of the message that Elaraby had entrusted to Hamas chief Khalid Meshal to pass on to the Syrian President, Arab League Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Ben Helli called on everybody “not to blow this issue out of proportion” adding “I don’t want to go into any more detail [about this issue].”
As for whether Hamas chief Khalid Meshal will meet Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby during his latest visit to Cairo, Ben Helli asserted that Elaraby is in constant contact with Meshal, adding that the Arab League committee on the peace process is expected to meet either later this month or early next month.