Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 370 (R).
(photo credit: Luis Galdamez / Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Tehran Wednesday to attend the Non-Aligned Movement conference.
This is Abbas's first visit to Iran since he was elected as president of the PA in 2005.
Abbas is accompanied by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Foreign Minister Riad Malki and Majed Faraj, head of the PA's General Intelligence Service.
Relations between the PA and Iran have been very tense over the past few years due to Tehran's support for Hamas.
It was not clear Wednesday whether Abbas would meet during his visit to Tehran with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Abbas is scheduled to deliver a speech before the conference about the latest developments in the region and the stalled peace process with Israel, sources in the PA president's office said.
The sources said they did not expect the visit to lead to improvement in relations between the PA and Iran.
"Iran has long been opposed to the policies of the Palestinian Authority," the sources told The Jerusalem Post.
"They consider President Abbas a traitor because he believes in the two-state solution and has renounced violence."
Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said that the PA president would meet with heads of several delegations to the conference.
Abbas will brief the foreign dignitaries on the current situation in the Palestinian territories and seek their backing for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, Abu Rudanieh added.
The Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported that several Palestinian officials tried to persuade Abbas to cancel his trip to Iran, but to no avail.
Last week, PA officials accused Iran of seeking to divide the Palestinians by inviting Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to attend the Tehran parley.
The officials called on Haniyeh to cancel his visit out of fear that his participation in the conference would be interpreted as a sign that the Palestinians have two different and separate entities - one in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas also threatened to boycott the NAM conference if Haniyeh or any other Hamas representative took part.
Haniyeh later announced that he had apologized to the Iranians for being unable to accept their invitation to attend the conference, paving the way for Abbas to travel to Tehran.