DAMASCUS, (Reuters) – Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to discuss efforts to form a unity government, the official SANA news agency said. “The meeting affirmed the need to support the Palestinian people fully and work on breaking the siege imposed on them,” the agency said. “Shoring up Palestinian national unity is also paramount in delicate circumstances such as these.”
Haniyeh, of the ruling Hamas movement, is in Damascus on a regional tour, the first since he took office in March.
Hamas’ exiled leader Khaled Meshaal lives in Syria along with several high-level members of the group, which is locked in a dispute with the minority Fatah faction over forming a new government.
Palestinian politicians say Syria has been gently pushing Hamas to compromise on the government issue, but Hamas leaders say the group is entitled to key positions in the government that reflect its dominance in parliament.
Haniyeh said in Cairo last week that talks on a government of national unity would not run into a dead end.
Haniyeh arrived in Damascus on Sunday from Qatar, which agreed topay salaries of 40,000 Palestinian education workers for several months, helping to ease an economic crisis caused by Western sanctions.
Western countries imposed the sanctions to force the Hamas government to recognise Israel, renounce armed struggle and accept peace accords with Israel struck by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which does not include Hamas.