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Palestinian President Abbas visits Saudi Arabia to ‘strengthen’ relations

Abbas’ visit follows reports in regional media that a Hamas delegation was going to visit the kingdom.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a day ahead of his scheduled meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday. The visit comes at an important time in the kingdom’s posture vis a vis both Israel and the Palestinians. 

Abbas was received in the Saudi city of Jeddah by Prince Badr bin Sultan Al Saud and will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on Tuesday. The two will discuss the Palestinian cause and ways to strengthen Saudi-Palestinian relations, according to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) official WAFA news outlet. 

The official Saudi Press Agency also confirmed Abbas’ visit. 

Why it matters: Abbas’ visit comes at the height of Saudi diplomacy on set of regional issues including ending the Yemen war, engaging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and opening to Iran. It is also indicative of improved relations with the PA. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has prioritized normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia after kingdom opened its airspace to Israel last year.

However, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in January that the kingdom will not establish relations with Israel before the establishment of a Palestinian state

Moreover, many Israeli politicians viewed Saudi Arabia's resumption of relations with Iran last month as a strategic failure, Rina Bassist reported for Al-Monitor at the time. 

The PA’s rival Hamas notably praised the Saudi-Iran agreement, calling it a “significant step to unite the Arab and Muslim world” in a statement

Know more: Several Arabic-language media outlets reported that a delegation led by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was going to visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency reported that the delegation would arrive on Monday and meet with Saudi officials. The Wall Street Journal also reported that Hamas members would arrive in the kingdom late Sunday. 

Senior Hamas member Mousa Abu Marzook tweeted on Saturday, “We seek relations with all vivid forces in the region.”

Neither Saudi Arabia nor Hamas has confirmed the visit, however.

Saudi Arabia opposes Hamas’ parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and has arrested members of the organization in the past. 

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