Abbas not welcome in Tehran, Iranian official says

Islamic Republic seeking to re-warm ties with Hamas, says parliament adviser, who adds, ‘We reject the existence of any Israeli on this Earth’

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 31, 2015. (Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 31, 2015. (Flash90)

Denying reports of a rapprochement between Iran and the Palestinian Authority, an assistant to Iran’s parliament speaker said on Wednesday that his country had rejected numerous requests by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to visit the Islamic Republic.

“They’ve asked to visit Iran more than once and we’ve refused and have never yet said yes,” Hussein Sheikholeslam, an adviser to parliament speaker Ali Larijani on international affairs, told Hamas daily al-Resalah.

“Iran diligently supports the resistance and its fighters,” he added, in reference to more hard-line Palestinian groups.

PLO official Ahmad Majdalani told Chinese news agency Xinhua last week that he had discussed details of Abbas’s visit to Tehran planned within the next two months. The PA has been attempting to bolster its ties with Iran amid a cooling in relations between its main political rival Hamas and the Islamic Republic.

According to Sheikholeslam, Iran has overcome its differences with Hamas over the Syrian issue (Hamas abandoned its Damascus headquarters in early 2012 in protest of Bashar Assad), describing Iran’s alliance with Hamas as “strategic.”

Raz Zimmt, an expert on Iranian politics as Tel Aviv University, told The Times of Israel that as a former ambassador to Damascus, Sheikholeslam’s comments should be taken seriously.

“It could very well be that this is an attempt to calm Hamas following the financial blow it received from Iran,” Zimmt told The Times of Israel.

Raz Zimmt (photo credit: Facebook)
Raz Zimmt (photo credit: Facebook)

Indeed, the Iranian official admitted that Tehran had slashed financial support of Hamas due to its economic crisis, but insisted that it “will do everything to renew this support in the future.”

According to Sheikholeslam, Iran has resisted pressure exerted by the P5+1 during the nuclear negotiations to halt its political involvement in Gaza, Syria and Yemen.

“These powers admitted that the reason for their pressure on us is our position on Israel,” he said. “We told them that we reject the existence of any Israeli on this earth.”

Zimmt, the Iran expert, noted however that Hussein Sheikholeslam’s statements regarding Iran’s disassociation from the PA and Abbas should not be taken at face value.

Recently, an Iranian deputy and member of the foreign relations committee, Ahmad Bakhshayesh Ardestani, admitted in a press interview that his country is playing Fatah against Hamas in a bid to sway Hamas away from the Sunni axis, represented by Saudi Arabia. Hamas had reportedly supported the Saudi-led onslaught against the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, backed by Iran.

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