Qatar’s foreign minister has said the presence of political leaders belonging to the Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas in Doha is “coordinated with the US” and aimed at facilitating Palestinian unity.
“Hamas’ presence [in Doha] is coordinated with the US and the countries in the region, and it’s part of our effort to mediate between the Palestinian factions to reach reconciliation,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
The statement comes four days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt cut diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar, closing, air land and sea borders over and sending the GCC countries into their largest crisis in years.
They accuse Qatar of supporting armed groups – including Hamas – and their regional rival, Iran. Qatar says the charges are baseless.
Analysts told Al Jazeera earlier this week that Qatar’s role in Palestine has been to accommodate and support both major Palestinian political players, namely Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), a semi-governmental body that administers the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
“We cannot speak of financial support. Qatar is only hosting Hamas and standing by it and its positions,” said Modallal.
“Qatar’s position has been to balance between all the sides – it has supported the PA and Hamas.”
Qatar has, on multiple occasions, expressed its support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Despite hosting Hamas’ political leaders, Qatar’s vision for peace was in direct contradiction with Hamas’ until recently when Hamas changed its long-held position on the two-state solution in a new political document.
In 2006, Qatar attempted to bridge the divide between Fatah – the ruling party of the PA – and Hamas, asking the movement to recognise the state of Israel and renounce violence as a form of resistance, which Hamas rejected.
A year later, Qatar also hosted Shimon Peres, former Israeli vice prime minister, where it tried to encourage Israel to negotiate directly with Hamas.
And, in the 2017 Arab League Summit in Jordan, Qatar was among the 22 member states that backed the Saudi-brokered Arab Peace Initiative, supportive of a two-state solution in return for normalisation of relations with Israel.
“Qatar supports Gaza, not Hamas, and it has supported the Palestinian Authority in Gaza more than once, thus dismissing claims that Doha’s support for Gaza is political support for Hamas,” Hebron-based political analyst Belal Shobaki told Al Jazeera.
And while the humanitarian support to Gaza may indirectly serve Hamas, Shobaki says that Doha “saved the PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ authority from collapsing more than once when the deficit in the PA budget has been blocked”.
Hamas’ links to the Muslim Brotherhood are also at heart of the Saudi foreign minister’s statements, analysts say.
The US-allied Arab countries, Egypt, Saudi, and the UAE designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist organisation”.
Although in its founding charter Hamas defined itself as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement clarified its position in the new document describing itself as a purely Palestinian organisation.