Leaders of the Islamic Resistance Movement in Palestine, Hamas, said that Saudi Arabia promised this weekend to remain one of the biggest financial backers of the Palestinians, despite US and European threats to cut aid.
Izzat al-Rashiq, a member of Hamas, said: "They [the Saudis] affirmed that political and financial aid to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian people would continue. "We did not go into numbers, but they promised excellent support." He was speaking on Saturday after the delegation met Prince Saud al-Faisal, the country’s foreign minister, on Friday night.
Hamas leaders are in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter and birthplace of Islam, on a tour of Arab and other countries seeking support after their victory in parliamentary elections in January.
The United States and the European Union have threatened to stop funding the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas, which is gearing up to form a government, gives up its armed struggle against Israel and recognizes the Jewish state.
Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia had previously rejected a US call to isolate Hamas by cutting off financial support. Al-Rashiq declined to say whether Riyadh had promised to increase funding to fill gaps caused by Western countries. Saudi officials were not immediately available for comment.
Saudi Arabia is largely seen as the biggest financial backer of the Palestinian Authority. Saudi citizens and charitable foundations donate about $150 million each year to support social and economic projects in the Palestinian territories.
On Saturday, the Palestinian delegation held separate meetings with Prince Saud and Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz, the Saudi intelligence chief, the state news agency SPA reported without giving details.
Although Saudi Arabia is a major Arab ally of the United States, withholding aid is seen as politically impossible for the government because of popular support for the Palestinians, not least now that an Islamist group has come to power.
The kingdom has traditionally sought to champion Muslim causes, at various points backing Mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnian Muslims in the Balkan country’s 1992-95 war, and Chechens against Russia.
Saudi media said the five-man Hamas delegation – which is headed by leader-in-exile Khalid Mishaal – would go on to visit Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait, probably leaving Riyadh on Sunday after a meeting with King Abdullah.
*this article sourced from aljazeera.net