DAMASCUS, Sept 24 (Khaled Yacoub Oweis/Reuters) - The Islamist movement Hamas
and President Mahmoud Abbas
faction agreed on Friday to help revive Egyptian efforts to narrow a schism between the two groups that has undermined the Palestinian cause.
An agreement was reached for a course and steps to be taken toward reconciliation, said a joint declaration issued after a late night meeting between Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Fateh official Azzam al-Ahmed in the Syrian capital.
The statement, read by Meshaal's deputy Mussa Abu Marzouk, said several sticking points have been already solved.
The meeting came as face to face talks between the Palestinian Authority
, which Hamas opposes, were renewed this month in Washington.
Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq, said the two sides will meet again in Damascus next month to try to solve differences over an Egyptian reconciliation paper.
This was a positive meeting, Rishq told reporters.
Hamas had previously rejected the document and refused to go sign it in Cairo because the group considered it biased toward Fateh and could result in Fateh maintaining control over the official Palestinian security apparatus.
Rishq lives in exile in Syria, along with Meshaal and other high-level members of Hamas.
Syria has called for a US role to resume its own talks with Israel but Washington has made it clear that it wants Damascus to use its influence with Hamas in support the talks between Western-backed Abbas and Israel.
The issue of Israeli settlement
building in the occupied West Bank
and East Jerusalem
is already threatening to derail the US supervised talks, which are aimed at reaching a peace agreement within a year.
Two years of Egyptian mediation to try to heal the rift between Hamas, which is also supported by Iran, and the more secular Fateh have failed.
But Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met Meshaal in Saudi Arabia this month and pushed for renewed meetings between the two groups.
Hamas has kept a line with Egypt, although Egypt is helping enforce an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip
and backs Abbas.
Hamas and Fateh fought a civil war
in 2007 that resulted in Hamas taking control over Gaza and Fateh extending its influence in the West bank with U.S. support.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Angus MacSwan)