Hamas chief plans historic Jordan, Gaza trips

GAZA CITY- Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal will visit Jordan on Sunday for the first time in 12 years, and is planning a historic first trip to Gaza, officials told AFP.
The visits, announced Tuesday, come as the Islamist group adjusts to new internal and external dynamics, including the consequences of the Arab Spring, and as it tries to implement a reconciliation deal with the rival Palestinian movement Fatah.

Meshaal's trip to Amman will be his first visit to Jordan since he was expelled from the kingdom in 1999.
"Khaled Meshaal will visit Jordan on Sunday, along with the Crown Prince of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Tamim al-Thani," Jordanian government spokesman Rajan Majali told AFP.
Meshaal's visit comes after Qatari mediation, and Majali said Jordan's King Abdullah would receive the Hamas leader and Sheikh Hamad.
Shortly afterwards, an official in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip told AFP that Meshaal was also planning a trip to the coastal territory, possibly accompanied by Palestinian president and Fatah head Mahmud Abbas.
Meshaal "intends to come to Gaza and has a great desire to carry out such a visit, which could surprise us by happening very soon," said Ahmed Yussef, an adviser to the Hamas ministry of foreign affairs in Gaza.
The trip to Gaza would be a historic first for Meshaal who was born in the West Bank but went into exile after the 1967 Six Day War.
Hamas is currently trying to implement a stalled reconciliation deal with Fatah, and Yussef said Meshaal's visit to Gaza could help that.
Meshaal "may be accompanied to Gaza by president Mahmud Abbas in order to give a big boost to the reconciliation and restore the public's confidence in the process," he said.
Yussef, who met with Meshaal in Cairo last week, stressed the visit would require coordination "with a number of parties, especially our Egyptian brothers," and gave no timeframe for the trip.
The visits were announced as Hamas undergoes something of a transformation, with the faction saying on Saturday that Meshaal does not plan to run for re-election.
The Islamist group is struggling to implement a reconciliation deal it signed with Fatah in May, which called for the establishment of an interim government of independents, and presidential and legislative elections within a year.
And it faces unprecedented pressures created by the Arab Spring, including an increasingly uncomfortable environment in Syria, where the government has cracked down on protesters, among them members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement with which Hamas is affiliated.
Reports have suggested that Meshaal will ask Amman for permission to reopen Hamas offices in Jordan, allowing the movement to evacuate its current headquarters-in-exile in Damascus, but Jordan's Majali denied that would be discussed.
"Reopening Hamas offices in Amman is not on the agenda. They did not ask for that anyway," he said.
But Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the visit would "boost political cooperation, reorganise ties with Jordan and study the means to open a Hamas office in Amman."
Relations between Hamas and Jordan have been strained since 1999, when the authorities expelled Meshaal along with three other members of the Islamist movement.
Hamas was accused of threatening the security and stability of Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Wednesday, January 25th 2012

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