Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Beirut on Wednesday for a week-long visit that will see him meet with Palestinian factions over growing cooperation between their enemy Israel and Arab states.
Haniyeh’s visit, his first to Lebanon in 27 years, comes after an August 13 announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to normalize ties.
Meanwhile, Osama Hamdan, a senior representative of Hamas in Lebanon, pointed to the possibility of a meeting between Haniyeh and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
“It is natural for the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, to meet the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, during his current visit to Lebanon,” Hamdan said.
Haniyeh met on Wednesday with both Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker premier Hassan Diab, according to the Lebanese news agency NNA.
On Thursday, he will meet representatives of other Palestinian factions in rare talks on how to respond to such accords and to a Middle East peace plan announced by Washington this year, said the Islamist movement’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka.
The meeting at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut will coincide with talks in Ramallah between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and representatives of Palestinian factions there.
Thursday’s joint discussions in Ramallah and Beirut aim to develop “a unified Palestinian strategy to confront normalization schemes… and to reject plans to annex the West Bank as well as (Trump’s) ‘deal of the century’,” Baraka told AFP.
Speaking to AFP from Ramallah, Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the talks also sought to boost ties between the factions.
They aim “to open a new page, to end divisions, achieve national reconciliation and build a national partnership between all factions,” he said.
The Palestinian embassy in Lebanon said that a part of the meeting was organized in Lebanon because most participating officials were residing either in Beirut, Syria or Ramallah.
Baraka justified the choice of Lebanon by saying the country is a supporter of the Palestinian cause and has a large population of Palestinian refugees who would be adversely affected by US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East.
The last time most heads of Palestinian factions held joint talks was in 2013 in Cairo.
Under the US plan unveiled this year, Israel would retain control of the disputed city of Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and annex settlements and other areas in the occupied West Bank.
On August 13, Trump announced an agreement between the UAE and Israel to normalize ties.
Under the watershed US-brokered deal, Israel has suspended, but not permanently dropped, annexation plans.
The UAE became the third Arab country to agree to normalize ties with Israel, after Egypt signed a peace deal in 1979 and Jordan followed suit in 1994.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that “there are many more unpublicized meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalize relations with the state of Israel.”