Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal speaks during an interview with Reuters in Doha.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Following two years of tense relations, an apparent "breakthrough" has been made in the relationship between Hamas and Saudi Arabia, a senior Hamas official said on Saturday.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal's visit with Saudi King Salmon, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's son and defense minister, have already bared fruit with indications of a "clear shift in relations and a breakthrough with Saudi Arabia," Salah Bardawl told Ma'an News Agency.
Relations between the two sides were strained for many years, especially due to the failure of Saudi and Arab efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah conflict. The Saudis are also believed to have been upset with Hamas’s close ties with Iran.
"We sensed that there is a readiness in Saudi Arabia to support the Palestinian cause," Bardawl explained, asserting that the Saudi's tremendous amount of political capitol could offer "large support for the Palestinian cause on a political, moral, and material level."
A possible rapprochement between Hamas and Saudi Arabia may also be viewed as a sign that the Islamist movement has decided to distance itself from Iran.
Ahead of the trip, Mashaal and a senior delegation of Hamas leaders, were expected to raise several issues with Saudi officials, including ways of improving bilateral relations and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, a Hamas official said. He said that the two sides were also expected to discuss ways of ending the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah.
Saudi Arabia has in the past acted as a mediator between the two rival parties, but to no avail.
Adnan Abu Amer, a political analyst in the Gaza Strip, said that Mashaal’s visit to Saudi Arabia is “positive by all criteria.” He predicted that the visit would pave the way for ending tensions between the two parties and allow Saudi Arabia to restore its status as a major player in the Palestinian arena.