Thursday, February 20, 2014

U.S., Saudis question Teheran trips by aides to Palestinians' Abbas


U.S., Saudis question Teheran trips by aides to Palestinians' Abbas

RAMALLAH — The United States has become concerned over what diplomats regard as a growing relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Iran.

Palestinian sources said the administration of President Barack Obama has sought clarifications of reports that the PA was establishing links with the Teheran regime. They said U.S. diplomats expressed concern over visits by aides of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to Iran in 2014.

Former Palestinian Authority security chief Jibril Rajoub, left, meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Teheran on Jan. 28. AFP/Getty Images/Azin Haghighi

"The Americans are not happy about this, and they want to know whether this means a shift in policy," a source said.

The sources said Abbas approved the visits of senior Fatah officials to Teheran. They included former PA security chief Jibril Rajoub, today the chairman of the Palestinian Olympics Committee, and former PA minister Abbas Zaki.

"Abbas has consistently disassociated himself from these visits," the source said.

The sources said Saudi Arabia, a leading financier of the PA, has also questioned Palestinian links to Teheran. They said Riyad was angered by reports that Rajoub relayed a message from Abbas to the Iranian leadership.

"[The PA] willing to consider a renewal of Palestinian-Iranian ties," Rajoub said on Jan. 29.

The PA has maintained a low-key relationship with Teheran. But the sources said Abbas was persuaded that Iran marked an option should the PA come under heavy U.S. pressure to sign a peace accord with Israel.

On Feb. 3, the Fatah Central Committee met in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss relations with Teheran. The sources said several members of the Palestinian leadership panel expressed support for the development of an Iranian option.

"Iran could be valuable should the peace process collapse and Abbas decide to renew hostilities against Israel," the source said.


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