Hamas leader visits Jordan for first time in 13 years
Hamas has struggled to quell rumours that Khaled Meshaal is looking to move the group's base from Syria – gripped by months of violence – relocating to Qatar or Jordan, in what would be a damaging blow to already strained relations with their Iranian benefactors.
Mr Meshaal was accompanied by Qatar's Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamad Bin Tamim al-Thani, who arranged the meeting in efforts to re-establish links between Hamas and Jordan that were severed in 1999 when the group's leadership were exiled for their terrorist activity. Furthermore, Hamas, which is proscribed by most as a terrorist organisation, was blacklisted by Jordan after an alleged weapons cache was discovered in the country six years ago.
Mr Meshaal, who holds a Jordanian passport, has been allowed back in the country twice since 1999 on humanitarian grounds – in 2009 to attend his father's funeral, and last October to visit his ill mother, but this is the first visit in an official capacity.
Jordan has played down the significance of the meeting. Keen to allay the concerns of their US allies, who have warned of serious repercussions should Hamas be allowed to set up shop in Jordan, the Jordanians stressed that Mr Meshaal's visit had no "political implications and does not signal a change in Jordan's political agenda".
For Mr Meshaal, however, the landmark meeting is another public step (...)