Mashaal to meet Abdullah for first time in 13 years

Hamas leader to make first official visit to Jordan since Hamas's banishment in 1999, Jordanian official says.

Khaled Mashaal in Cairo after reconcilliation agreement_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Khaled Mashaal in Cairo after reconcilliation agreement_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is expected to visit Jordan on Sunday to “inaugurate” a new page in relations between the Islamist movement and the Hashemite kingdom, a Jordanian government spokesman said on Tuesday.
Hamas officials confirmed the visit would take place and added that Mashaal would be accompanied by Qatari crown prince Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.
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Relations between Hamas and Jordan deteriorated in 1999 when King Hussein closed the movement’s offices in Amman and expelled Mashaal and some of his top aides.
Mashaal was deported even though he holds Jordanian citizenship.
In 2006, relations between the two sides deteriorated further when the Jordanian authorities accused Hamas of smuggling weapons into the kingdom from Syria.
Jordanian security officials said then Hamas was planning to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets from Jordan.
It is not clear at this stage if the Jordanians will give back to Mashaal his Jordanian passport. Nor is it clear whether Mashaal will be permitted to reside in Jordan or even move his headquarters to Amman from Damascus.
Jordan’s new prime minister, Awn Khasawneh, announced shortly after assuming office in October that the expulsion of the Hamas officials in 1999 was a mistake.
A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said King Abdullah II will receive Mashaal and the Qatari crown prince for a meeting in the royal palace in Amman.
The official said Qatar played a major role in persuading the monarch to allow Mashaal to visit. According to the official, Qatar has been trying in recent months to convince Mashaal and other Hamas leaders to leave Syria because of President Bashar Assad’s violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.