Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Senior Palestinian Negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat has confirmed that he met last Thursday with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. But he told Asharq Al-Awsat that it was not the first meeting of its kind and that he had met the Iranian minister at the Davos forum in Jordan before two years and at the Riyadh Arab summit in the presence of President Mahmud Abbas.
Erekat discussed with Mottaki the need to support the Palestinian cause and briefed him on the details of the peace process and where it had reached. They also discussed regional developments.
Informed sources told Asharq al-Awsat that Erekat replied when Mottaki talked about Iran’s continuing support for the cause that anyone who supports it does not back factions at the expense of other ones (a reference to Iran’s backing for Hamas). According to these sources, Erekat told Mottaki: “I am not asking you to support Fatah but to support the Palestinian cause.”
Mottaki told Erekat that his country was supporting the success of the Palestinian dialogue and looking toward Palestinian unity and would continue to support the Palestinian cause. The two officials discussed the means of supporting the Cairo-sponsored Palestinian dialogue but no promises were made during the meeting.
The relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Iran was strained as a result of Iran’s support of Hamas, particularly following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip. President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly called for Iran to cease interfering in Palestinian affairs. The Palestinian Authority has maintained a diplomatic relationship with Tehran since the Islamic Revolution. In fact, there is a Palestinian embassy and a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Tehran, although there is no contact on a political or diplomatic level.
A Palestinian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity informed AFP that Erekat and Mottaki discussed “the need for a balance between Fatah and Hamas, the need for support of dialogue (between the two groups)… regional conditions and how to strike a balance in support between Hamas and Fatah.”