Le nouveau leader du Hamas, Yahya Sinwar.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A high-level Hamas delegation led by Political Bureau Deputy Chief Saleh al-Arouri arrived in Tehran on Friday to meet with Iranian officials.
The delegation’s arrival in the Iranian capital comes just a week after Egypt brokered an agreement between Hamas and Fatah to advance Palestinian reconciliation efforts.
In a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Arouri said that his visit is a “practical rejection” of Israel’s demand that his party cut ties with Iran, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.
The Israeli security cabinet on Tuesday said that before it could negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, the Islamist party must cut ties with Iran, disarm, recognize Israel and undertake a number of other measures.
The matter of the formation of a unity government, which was not included in the Hamas-Fatah agreement, is expected to be addressed during additional talks between the parties in Cairo in late November.
Arouri also said that reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah would not lead to the disarming of Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedin Kassam Brigades.
“We absolutely will not give up on the rights of the Palestinian people and resistance. Any understanding or reconciliation will not affect the resistance weapons and their program,” he said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would not accept a scenario in which Hamas’s armed wing would hold onto its weapons.
Arouri, joined by Hamas Politburo member Ezzat al-Rishq, senior Lebanon-based Hamas official Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri and other high-ranking Hamas officials, will be visiting Tehran for “several days” to meet with Iranian officials, Hamas’s official website said.
A senior Hamas delegation also visited Iran in August to attend the swearing-in ceremony for President Hassan Rouhani’s second term and meet with senior Iranian officials.
Hamas and Iran have historically maintained close relations.
But after Hamas refused to support the Iranian-backed Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011 when civil war broke out, ties between Hamas and Iran are believed to have soured.
However, Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar told a group of journalists in late August that his movement’s ties with Iran “were and still are good,” and noted that Iran had become the largest sponsor of the Izzadin Kassam Brigades.
Egypt has not issued a statement about the Hamas delegation’s current visit to Tehran.
Some experts have said that one of the reasons Egypt sponsored Palestinian reconciliation efforts is to encourage Hamas to develop closer ties with it rather than its regional foes, such as Iran and Qatar.