Abbas to undergo 'medical tests' in Germany: Palestinian source

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas left for Germany on Monday for "routine medical tests", a source in his office told AFP, weeks before the first Palestinian polls in 15 years.

The 86-year-old Abbas left the presidential compound in Ramallah in the Israel-occupied West Bank via helicopter for Jordan, said the source.

He was to fly to Germany where he would meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, before returning on Thursday, the source added, requesting anonymity pending an official announcement.

But a German government spokeswoman told AFP: "We cannot confirm there will be a meeting between the chancellor and President Abbas during his stay in Germany," where coronavirus restrictions are in place.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa confirmed Abbas's arrival in Jordan but made no mention of the onward trip to Germany.

Palestinian legislative elections are scheduled for May 22, with a presidential vote to follow on July 31.

Abbas, elected Palestinian Authority president in the last vote in 2005 following the death of Yasser Arafat, has not declared whether he intends to run again.

His secular Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, has submitted a list of candidates for the legislative polls.

Abbas, a heavy smoker, was hospitalised with pneumonia in 2018, fuelling speculation about a possible Palestinian succession plan.

His latest visit comes with Abbas and Fatah facing mounting political pressures.

In the legislative polls, Fatah is facing challenges from dissident factions including the Freedom list, led by a nephew of the late Arafat, Nasser al-Kidwa.

Freedom has been endorsed by Marwan Barghouti, a jailed popular leader whom supporters hail as the Palestinian Mandela.

Barghouti is serving multiple life sentences in Israel for allegedly organising deadly attacks during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) from 2000-2005.

Abbas's former Gaza security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, currently in exile in Abu Dhabi, is also backing a list of challengers.

The Palestinian election followed an agreement on vote procedures between Fatah and Hamas Islamists who control the Israeli-blockaded Gaza strip.