Last Updated: Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:18 am (KSA) 08:18 am (GMT)

Hamas chief plans first Gaza trip, due in Jordan for official visit after 12 years

The visit to Gaza would be a historic first for Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, who was born in the West Bank but went into exile after the 1967 Six Day War. (File photo)
The visit to Gaza would be a historic first for Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, who was born in the West Bank but went into exile after the 1967 Six Day War. (File photo)

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal plans to visit Gaza for the first time, possibly accompanied by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas official said Tuesday.

Meshaal “intends to come to Gaza and has a great desire to carry out such a visit, which could surprise us by happening very soon,” said Ahmed Yussef, a counselor to the Hamas ministry of foreign affairs in the Gaza Strip.

The trip would be a historic first for Meshaal who was born in the West Bank but went into exile after the 1967 Six Day War.

It would come as his Hamas movement attempts to implement a reconciliation deal with rival Palestinian movement Fatah, and Yussef said the trip could help the process.

Meshaal “may be accompanied to Gaza by president Mahmoud Abbas in order to give a big boost to the reconciliation and restore the public's confidence in the process,” he said.

Yussef, who met with Meshaal in Cairo last week, stressed the visit would require coordination “with a number of parties, including, especially our Egyptian brothers.”

Due in Jordan

Meanwhile Meshaal is due in Jordan on Sunday on his first official visit since he was expelled in 1999, the government spokesman said.

“Khaled Meshaal will visit Jordan on Sunday, along with the Crown Prince of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Tamim al-Thani,” Rakan Majali, who is also information minister, told AFP on Tuesday.

“King Abdullah II will receive the Prince of Qatar and Meshaal,” whose visit comes after Qatari mediation.

Majali said Meshaal would meet several government officials, without elaborating.

“His visit is part of a new chapter in relations between Jordan and Hamas. But this will not be at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, which is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” he added.

“Reopening Hamas offices in Amman is not on the agenda. They did not ask for that anyway.”

However, Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri said the visit seeks to “boost political cooperation, reorganize ties with Jordan and study the means to open a Hamas office in Amman.”

“The trip is also aimed at facing Israeli schemes to abolish Palestinian refugees’ right of return and turn Jordan into a substitute homeland for Palestinians,” Abu Zuhri told AFP.

Relations between Hamas and Jordan have remained strained since 1999, when the authorities expelled Meshaal along with three other members of the Palestinian Islamist movement.

Hamas was accused at the time of threatening the security and stability of Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh said in November that the expulsion of Hamas leaders from Jordan had been “a constitutional and political error.”

Ties soured further in 2006 after Amman alleged that members of the group smuggled arms into the kingdom from neighboring Syria.

Meshaal escaped a 1997 assassination attempt in Amman by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

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