Hamas leader urges support for Palestinian territories on Tunisia visit
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Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Tunisia on Thursday where he met with the country’s new Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali. On his visit, Haniyeh stressed that support for the Palestinian territories was a "religious and nationalist commitment".
AFP - Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya said support for Palestine should be a "religious and nationalist commitment" as he arrived in Tunis Thursday to a welcome from Tunisia's new leaders.
"Palestine is not a banner that we brandish like nobody's business, it's a religious and nationalist commitment," said Haniya after a meeting with Tunisia's moderate Islamist prime minister, Hamadi Jebali.
"We have suffered from an economic and political blocade, and former governments have neglected us but Tunisia has given justice to Gaza" through this invitation, said Haniya.
The Hamas leader is in Tunisia as part of a six-country tour. He is to meet with the north African state's new president Moncef Marzouki and the president of the constitutional parliament Mustapha Ben Jaafar.
Asked for his reaction to the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Amman, Haniya said that it was "a punch in the wind."
The six-country tour marked his first travel abroad since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, and according to his office is aimed at raising funds to rebuild Gaza City, devastated by an Israeli offensive three years ago.
The Palestinian leader, accompanied by some 20 aides, was greeted on arrival by Jebali and the leader of the dominant moderate Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi.
A crowd of mainly Ennahda supporters waved Palestinian and Tunisian flags and shouted for "the liberation of Palestine."
Haniya has already visited Egypt, Sudan and Turkey, with Bahrain and Qatar also on his itinerary.
The tour was also expected to focus on Palestinian reconciliation.
Since 2007, the Palestinian territories have been politically divided, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah largely ruling the West Bank and Hamas governing Gaza.
Hamas remain on the United States' and the European Union's blacklists as a terrorist group.