Last updated: 29 December, 2011

Gaza premier and Hamas leaders meet Sudan’s Bashir

Gaza’s Hamas premier Ismail Haniya held talks with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Thursday on his first official regional tour since the Islamists’ 2007 power seizure in the Palestinian enclave.

Haniya, who arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday, was joined in the meeting by other high-ranking Hamas leaders — the first time they had met as a group with Bashir, whose country has close ties with Hamas.

The Palestinian group has long maintained a base in Sudan, where its exiled chief Khaled Meshaal is a frequent visitor.

Meshaal joined the hour-long talks with Bashir, as did key Hamas figures Mahmud Zahar, a former foreign minister, and Mussa Abu Marzuk.

“From the Arabs and Islamic countries we want finance and political support to confirm that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state,” Haniya told reporters after the meeting.

He also came to Khartoum for the Al-Quds Forum, an annual gathering which focuses on Jerusalem, the eastern sector of which was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war and annexed shortly afterwards.

Around 200,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of their future state.

Meshaal told reporters that his delegation briefed Bashir on reconciliation efforts with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Since 2007, the Palestinian territories have been politically divided into two separate territories, with the Fatah of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas largely ruling the West Bank and Hamas governing Gaza.

In May, following years of bitter rivalry, the two factions signed a reconciliation deal.

Last week, Abbas met Meshaal in Cairo and the two agreed on a process that would pave the way for Hamas to join a reformed PLO, now dominated by Fatah, and for long-delayed Palestinian elections.

Haniya left Gaza on Sunday and visited Cairo before flying to Sudan.

Sources in his office said the main purpose of the trip was to seek “help and aid” for the reconstruction of Gaza, which was devastated by a massive 22-day Israeli offensive which began three years ago.

His tour was also to include Qatar, Turkey, Tunisia and Bahrain.

Haniya entered Egypt through the Rafah crossing, which has remained largely closed since June 2006 when Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after militants snatched soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed two months ago under a prisoner swap deal.

The blockade was tightened a year later when the Hamas seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Cairo officially reopened Rafah crossing with Gaza in May, more than three months after Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down.