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Saudi Arabia hosts top Palestinian Fatah and Hamas officials

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas politburo Ismail Haniyeh and other officials are in Riyadh
Faisal Al-Saud, the Saudi Prince of Riyadh, receives Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Saudi Arabia to attend the Arab-Chinese summit, December 2022 (Wafa)

Saudi Arabia is hosting on Monday Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas politburo Ismail Haniyeh, who is on his first trip to Riyadh in over a decade. 

Abbas is visiting Riyadh with Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), and Majed Faraj, the head of the Palestinian Authority's General Intelligence Service.

Abbas and Haniyeh met face-to-face in Algeria in July 2022 for the first time in five years. It is unclear if they will meet in Riaydh to iron out their disputes or if the Saudi-sponsored talks will be held separately, behind closed doors.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which is dominated by the Fatah party, and Hamas, the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, have been at odds over a range of political disagreements since 2007.

Two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia's King Salman invited Abbas to an official iftar in the last days of Ramadan.

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Bassem al-Agha, Palestine's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the Voice of Palestine radio that Abbas "will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Monday, and will hold his meetings on Tuesday."

"There is continuous communication with the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that has distinguished and well-established stances towards Palestine," he said, adding that the visit will "discuss the latest political developments."

Last December, Abbas attended the Arab-Chinese summit in Riyadh and met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines.

Hamas delegation

On Sunday, Haniyeh headed a Hamas delegation to Riyadh with Saleh al-Arouri, his deputy, Mousa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas political bureau, and Khaled Meshaal, the head of the group abroad.

The delegation will reportedly first pay a pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca. 

A source close to Hamas told Andalou Agency that the delegation is scheduled to meet with Saudi officials "to discuss a number of issues related to Palestinian and regional affairs and bilateral issues between the kingdom and the movement.

"The issue of Palestinian detainees [in Saudi Arabia] will top the agenda of the Hamas visit, as it is scheduled to take several days," the source said.

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On Saturday, Abu Marzouk tweeted that "Hamas is not part of any political or military axis, regardless of name and address. We are an Islamic resistance movement, and we seek relations with all living forces in the region and the world.”

The tweet, posted just ahead of a meeting with Saudi officials, was perhaps also meant to assuage the perception in Riyadh that Hamas is too close to Iran. 

Saudi authorities earlier this year released two Palestinians with close ties to Hamas from prison.

Suleiman Haddad and his son Yahya Haddad were among nearly 68 Palestinians and Jordanians arrested in 2019 over accusations of having links to an unidentified "terrorist organisation".

Israeli aggression

Meshaal was the last high-ranking Hamas official to visit Saudi Arabia in 2015. Saudi Arabia was a mediator in reconciliation talks between the Fatah movement and Hamas and the sponsor of the Mecca agreement in February 2007.

Abbas and Haniyeh's visits come at a time of increased Israeli aggression against Palestinian Muslim and Christian worshippers in the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem and settler assaults on Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas said on Sunday that "Israeli assaults on Christians celebrating the Holy Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in occupied Jerusalem, which were preceded by attacks on worshipers in the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and the desecration of its courtyards, is something condemned and rejected."

"[This] exposes the falsity of the occupation, which claims to allow freedom of worship in holy places," he added.

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