DAMASCUS (AFP) – Palestinian movement Hamas on Wednesday said it restored relations with the Syrian government after a visiting delegation held a “historic meeting” with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
The group, which controls the Gaza Strip, was long one of Syria’s closest allies.
But it left Syria in 2012 after condemning the Assad government’s suppression of protests in March 2011, which triggered the country’s descent into civil war.
“This is a glorious and important day, in which we come back to our dear Syria to resume joint work,” Hamas Chief of Arab relations Khalil al-Hayya told reporters in Damascus.
“This is a new start for joint Palestinian-Syrian action,” he said after meeting with Assad.
Hamas and Assad have agreed to “move on from the past and look to the future”, al-Hayya added.
Wednesday’s meeting with Assad “is in line with the broader rapprochement between Hezbollah and Hamas evident in Lebanon over the past year or more”, said Maha Yahya of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
Al-Hayya said there was consensus among Hamas leadership and supporters over the resumption of ties with Syria – a move also backed by the Palestinian group’s foreign sponsors.
“All the states we notified of our decision were welcoming and supportive of the move, who encouraged us to take the step,” al-Hayya said.
A Hamas leader told AFP that the group, which was headquartered in the Syrian capital before leaving the country, plans to reopen its Damascus office.
But it was “too early” to talk about relocating its headquarters to the Syrian capital, said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.