Hamas chief due in Jordan 12 years after expulsion: minister

Khaled Meshaal, political chief of the Hamas movement that rules Gaza, 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 today.
"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, reorganise 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 neighbouring Syria.

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