Hamas supports holding new Palestinian general elections on the condition that an election is held concurrently for the Palestinian Authority presidency and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the Palestinian parliament, Hamas officials told Russia on Saturday. The message was relayed to Russia during a meeting in Doha, Qatar, between senior Hamas officials and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov. The Hamas delegation was headed by Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of the movement’s Political Bureau. The meeting was also attended by Russian Ambassador to Qatar Nurmakhamad Kholov. Hamas’s message came in response to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s initiative to hold long overdue elections. Abbas made his announcement during a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 26. However, he did not say whether the elections would be held for the presidency or the parliament. The last presidential election was held in 2005, when Abbas was elected to a four-year-term. A year later, the Palestinians held elections for the PLC, which resulted in a Hamas victory. Hamas and other Palestinian factions have welcomed Abbas’s initiative of holding new elections. However, they insist that the vote for the PA presidency and the PLC should take place simultaneously. PA officials said last week that they are planning to first hold parliamentary elections, adding that the Palestinian Central Elections Commission has been instructed by Abbas to start preparation for the vote. The presidency elections, the officials added, will be held at a later stage. No date has been set for either elections. Senior officials of the commission are expected to visit the Gaza Strip later this week for talks with leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions about the elections. At the meeting with the Russian diplomats in Doha, senior Hamas official Abu Marzouk said that his movement insists on holding the two elections at the same time. He also conveyed Hamas’s positive stance toward a recent initiative by eight Palestinian factions to end the Hamas-Fatah rift. The Hamas officials also briefed the Russian diplomats on the current situation in the Gaza Strip and the “harsh conditions of Palestinians living there,” according to a statement issued by Hamas. The statement said that Bogdanov “stressed the importance of achieving Palestinian national unity and reaffirmed Moscow’s continued support for the Palestinian people on the basis of international legitimacy.” Meanwhile, the PLO Executive Committee was scheduled to meet in Ramallah on Saturday to discuss Abbas’s plan to hold elections. Abbas is also scheduled to brief the committee members on the outcome of his visit to Saudi Arabia last week and his talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At the end of the visit, the two sides announced that they have agreed to form a “joint economic committee and business council.” On the eve of the meeting in Ramallah, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani said that Hamas has the right to participate in the upcoming elections, “but at the same time, it doesn’t have the right to prevent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from voting or presenting their candidacy.” Majdalani told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station that consultations were underway with several Palestinian factions concerning the proposed elections. A PA official said that if all goes well, the parliamentary elections will be held within three months after Abbas issues a “presidential decree” for holding the vote. The official said that the presidential election may be held three or four months after the parliamentary election. “We are prepared for holding the elections,” the official said. “We are hoping that the elections will pave the way for ending the dispute between Fatah and Hamas.” Senior Fatah official Hussein al-Sheikh, who also heads the PA’s General Authority for Civilian Affairs, announced last week that Abbas would be Fatah’s only candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. He said that Abbas will announce the date for holding parliamentary election as soon as the elections commission concludes its consultations with all the Palestinian factions.