Jordan, Hamas Premiers Discuss Shalit Prisoner Swap Deal in Rare Contact

Jordan official news agency reports rare telephone conversation; Jordan closed down Hamas office in 1999, since then has recognized PA as sole representative of Palestinian people.

Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit had a rare telephone conversation Sunday with his counterpart in the Palestinian Hamas movement, Ismail Haniyeh, during which they discussed the radical group's imminent prisoners swap with Israel, according to the official Petra news agency.

Jordan closed down the Hamas office in 1999, forcing its personnel to leave the country for Qatar.

Ismail Haniyeh - AP - Sept. 28, 2010

Since then, Jordan has recognized the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

Haniyeh, who initiated the contact, thanked the Jordanian leadership for its "support to the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and its firm defense of the Palestinians' right of return" to their homes, deserted upon Israel's foundation in 1948.

"From his part, Bakhit emphasized Jordan's attitude calling for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and congratulated Palestinian families over the release of their sons from Israeli jails,", Petra said.

Bakhit pledged that Amman would maintain its support for the Palestinian right of return, in accordance with UN resolutions, as "a basic right of the Jordanian state."

According to the records of the UN Relief and Works Agency of the Palestine refugees, about 2 million Palestinian refugees currently live in nine camps inside Jordan and enjoy full Jordanian citizenship.

The contact between Haniyeh and Bakhit coincided with local media reports that current politburo chief Khaled Meshal, formerly head of the Hamas office in Jordan, is next week prepared to pay his first official visit to Jordan in more than a decade.

The rapprochement between Jordan and Hamas has been mediated by Qatar, whose heir apparent, Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, would accompany Meshal during his visit to Jordan, according to the report.