Abbas heads to Riyadh for impromptu meeting with Saudi rulers
search

Abbas heads to Riyadh for impromptu meeting with Saudi rulers

PA leader slated to sit down with king and crown prince of Gulf kingdom, which is in the midst of a historic power shakeup

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Then Saudi Crown Prince and now King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (right) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) in the Saudi Red Sea resort of Jeddah, on June 18, 2014. (AFP/HO/Saudi Press Agency)
Then Saudi Crown Prince and now King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (right) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) in the Saudi Red Sea resort of Jeddah, on June 18, 2014. (AFP/HO/Saudi Press Agency)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Saudi Arabia unexpectedly on Monday to meet with King Salman  and Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman, with the Gulf kingdom at the height of a major crackdown on members of the royal family.

Abbas had been in Egypt, where he was scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, when he was summoned to Riyadh to meet with the Saudi rulers, according to the official PA news site Wafa.

The Palestinian ambassador in Riyadh, Bassam Agha, said the meeting would address bilateral contacts and efforts to strengthen relations between the two sides, as well as “developments on the Palestinian issue.”

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne oversaw an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country’s most powerful princes, military officers, businessmen and government ministers. Some of them are potential rivals or critics of the crown prince, whose purported anti-corruption sweep sent shockwaves across the kingdom Sunday as he further consolidated power.

Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in Moscow’s Kremlin, Russia, May 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, pool, File)

Abbas’s Fatah party, which leads the West-Bank-based PA, is currently in the midst of a reconciliation process with the Hamas terror group, its longtime rival that controls the Gaza Strip.

The two sides signed an agreement last month in Cairo that calls for the PA to retake civilian control of the Strip by December 1, a decade after Hamas ousted it from the coastal enclave in a violent coup.

In recent months, Hamas has publicly flaunted its burgeoning ties with Iran, and the Islamic Republic has in turn sworn to increase its military backing of the Gaza-based terror group.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are currently locked in a battle for regional hegemony, and blame each other for spreading extremism throughout the Middle East.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (2nd-R) meets with Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian (R) and other Hamas operatives in Lebanon on August 1, 2017. (Courtesy)

On Saturday, a high-profile Hamas delegation visited Tehran for the second time in recent weeks, in order to attend a memorial service for the father of Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.

The delegation included Deputy politburo chief Saleh al-Arouri and politburo member Ezzat al-Rishq.

AP contributed to this report.

read more:
comments