Riyadh Downplays Hamas Visit to Mecca

Riyadh Downplays Hamas Visit to MeccaRiyadh Downplays Hamas Visit to Mecca

Saudi Arabia played down the significance of a visit by Hamas leaders, saying it was only a religious pilgrimage and Riyadh’s position on the Palestinian movement remains the same.

“There was no (political) visit by Hamas to the kingdom,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, Middle East Eye reported.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported last week on the rare Hamas visit.

“A group from Hamas, including (politburo chief) Khaled Meshaal ... visited Mecca for Umra (pilgrimage). They performed the Eid prayers there and offered greetings to the king,” Jubeir said, stressing that “there were no meetings.”

Saudi Arabia is a strong supporter of the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, but it is at odds with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

“The position of the kingdom toward Hamas has not changed, nor its positions concerning supporting the (Palestinian) authority and Egypt’s efforts to preserve stability and security,” Jubeir said, referring to “some exaggeration” about the visit.

Media said a meeting took place last week between a Hamas delegation, including Meshaal’s deputy Mussa Abu Marzouk, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s son and defense minister.

Ties between Hamas and Riyadh deteriorated after the kingdom supported the Egyptian Army’s 2013 ousting of the country’s first freely-elected president Mohamed Morsi and its crackdown on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.