Saudi official downplays significance of recent Hamas visit

AP News
Posted: Jul 23, 2015 10:20 AM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's top diplomat says a recent visit by the leader of Hamas was for religious purposes and was not an official political visit to the kingdom.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and other officials from the militant Palestinian group visited the holy city of Mecca last week, with Hamas saying Mashaal shook hands with King Salman and prayed alongside the monarch.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir's comments on Thursday were aimed at downplaying speculation that Hamas was improving relations with Saudi Arabia, which is suspicious of Hamas' political Islamist ideology and the group's ties to its regional rival, Iran.

Hamas' relations to Saudi Arabia have been strained since a Saudi-brokered reconciliation agreement between the group and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction broke down a decade ago.