Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh meets Moroccan politicians for Gaza talks

Palestinian group Hamas’ top leader, Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a protest to express solidarity with the Palestinian people amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Doha, Qatar.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh met the speakers of Morocco’s parliament and opposition politicians on Thursday during a visit to build support for the Palestinian cause after the North African nation upgraded diplomatic relations with Israel.

Haniyeh, who arrived in Morocco on Wednesday for a four-day trip, has already met the Islamist PJD, the biggest party in Morocco’s governing coalition.

Morocco agreed in December to improve relations with Israel in a deal with the United States that included U.S. recognition of Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a region that the Algeria-backed Polisario Front wants to become an independent state.

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza and which fought an 11-day conflict with Israel in May, has criticised Morocco for the deal with Israel. Haniyeh’s visit is a bid to seek broader support for Palestinians after the Gaza conflict.

In Morocco, the visit is seen as a way to show Rabat still backs Palestinians despite more friendly relations with Israel.

Haniyeh met the speakers from the two chambers of Morocco’s parliament and a delegation from PAM, the biggest opposition party in parliament. He is also due to meet other politicians.

King Mohammed VI, the highest authority in Morocco, has congratulated Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

The king also backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

With parliamentary elections in September, Moroccan political parties want to show their support for Palestinians after protests last month against the Israel deal.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani held a reception for Haniyeh on Wednesday in his capacity as PJD leader. He said the king promised efforts to entrench sovereignty over Western Sahara would not be “at the expense of the Palestinian people”.

Winning international recognition for its sovereignty over Western Sahara is Morocco’s main foreign policy goal.

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