Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas confirmed that he would soon be traveling to Iran. After announcing over the weekend that he would resign as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the octogenarian Abbas said that while he would definitely travel to Iran, no date for the visit has yet been set.
Based on his remarks, the visit can't come soon enough for Abbas. “Iran is a neighbor, a sister nation,” he said at a press conference announcing the visit. “Our relations with Iran were not good in the past, but we do have an embassy there and they recognize us.”
The visit was suggested, he said, by a member of the PLO Executive. “He had spoken to the Iranians about improving relations with Tehran, and given the new agreement on Iran's nuclear program with Western countries, the time was right for the visit. “What's important to us is that the Middle East be free of nuclear weapons and that there be peace and stability in the region.”
Last week, a senior PA official told China's Xinhua news agency that Abbas would visit Iran, but Tehran denied that report. Iran had no comment on Abbas's statement Sunday.
The ties between the PA and Iran declined over the past 10 years in the view of Iran's support for groups which oppose the PA, such as Hamas with which Iran has had close ties.
However, Iran and Hamas have been at odds in recent over the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. As a result of Hamas’ refusal to support Assad in the uprising, an angry Iran reportedly stopped supplying the terror group with weapons.
Nevertheless, the two sides have been getting closer in recent months, with a Hamas delegation visiting Tehran in December and a Hamas official later declaring that the visit had "opened a new chapter" in relations between Tehran and the terror group.
But in recent days there have been reports of another rift between Iran and Hamas, which began when Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met Saudi King Salman during a pilgrimage to Mecca in July. Saudi Arabia is Iran’s regional rival in the Middle East.
Following that meeting, it was reported that an angry Iran had canceled a planned visit of a Hamas delegation to the country.