Hamas has revealed that it has met with the ambassadors of Russia, Turkey, Iran, and South Africa in Qatar — Nur Muhammad Khulov, Mustafa Goksu, Hamid Reza Dehghani, and Faisal Musa respectively —to discuss Palestinian developments and the upcoming elections, as well as the challenges and risks they pose. The movement also requested the ambassadors to ensure the success of the elections; they were given details of the recent internal elections within Hamas.
Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas Political Bureau, led the movement’s delegation at the meeting on 28 February. He was accompanied by Mousa Abu Marzook, Izzat Al-Risheq, Husam Badran, and Maher Obaid. They explained the current state of the political scene in Palestine and shared details of the legislative, presidential, and National Council elections to be held during the next few months.
Al-Risheq told Middle East Monitor that the meeting with the ambassadors was to brief them on the election developments, not least because Russia and Turkey are, with Egypt and Qatar, the guarantors for holding them. “We asked them to exert pressure on the Israeli authorities to stop them from hindering the elections in Jerusalem and refrain from arresting Hamas leaders in the West Bank. We are communicating with as many countries as possible in this regard.”
He added that Haniyeh has sent letters to a number of presidents and met with other ambassadors. “Some of the meetings were made public, while others were kept confidential. We seek to communicate continuously and be open to the world, and we are contacting ambassadors in the countries where we have representatives.”
In a related context, Haniyeh met with the head of the Turkish parliament’s Palestine Friendship Group, Hassan Turan, as well as a number of deputies, group members, and local officials on 20 March. He wanted to ask Turkey to use its political influence to get Israel to stop its violations against Jerusalemites.
The political bureau head also sent a message to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani on 14 February to thank him for Doha’s role in facilitating the elections. Haniyeh asked Qatar to monitor the polls. This contact followed communications sent in early January to the leaders of Iran, Jordan, Switzerland, South Africa and the UN, calling on them to support the elections and work towards the success of all steps being taken to strengthen the unity of the Palestinians. On 22 January, Haniyeh held an online meeting with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov to talk about the elections. He stressed the need for the results to be accepted.
These moves by Hamas are part of an ongoing effort to engage with the international community, to which it remains open. Meetings are even held with the envoys of countries with which the movement has no formal ties and those that were previously engaged but stopped due to Israeli and American pressure. The movement is expected to increase its diplomatic contacts ahead of the legislative elections in May.
One of the most important motives for this is to avoid a repeat of the 2006 legislative elections when the results were not recognised, leading to the Israeli-led siege on the Gaza Strip from 2006 to this day. Hamas is seeking assurances from as many countries as possible that they will accept the results.
“Hamas has relations and contacts with many countries,” explained Hussam Badran. “They communicate with us in different ways according to the circumstances of each state, and these relations are not necessarily publicised.”
The Palestinian Authority and Fatah usually express their concerns over such Hamas meetings and contacts, for fear of a potential shift in the international community’s view of the movement. They are worried in case the Hamas officials present political positions that appeal to the international community enough to make them reconsider boycotts of the movement. As far as Hamas is concerned, the meetings represent a breakthrough in its international relations. The positive response to the Palestinian elections from the US and EU could see either or both talking to Hamas if it is part of the next government in Ramallah.
The Islamic movement is open to talking with any country and takes every opportunity to do so, either directly or through those close to it. The Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, is visited frequently by European envoys who make contacts with the movement now and then.
It was noteworthy that the Communication and Information Officer at the EU Delegation in East Jerusalem told Xinhua News Agency on 16 January that, “The European Union will await the election result and deal with it according to the rules of its work.” This statement was described as “multifaceted”.
The meeting in Doha may have been the first time that Haniyeh and the Hamas leadership have met openly, and at the same time, with the ambassadors of the aforementioned countries. It is possible that we may be seeing the beginnings of a regional and international coalition supportive of Hamas, despite the ongoing US boycott and unannounced European contacts with the movement.
By hosting the meeting, Qatar could be trying to boost Hamas’s reputation in the international community in preparation for its participation in the upcoming elections. However, it remains a concern to Hamas that it still has no cast-iron guarantees that the results will not be rejected again. That is a big issue for the movement.