Jordan, which has moderated its stance towards Palestinian terror group Hamas since its election win, said on Wednesday it invited Hamas leaders to make their first visit since the kingdom expelled them in 1999.
The visit to the pro-U.S. country would be part of a regional tour by Hamas to garner financial and political support in the face of Western threats to cut Palestinian aid.
“We welcome the visit of a delegation of our brothers the leaders of Hamas in their capacity as Palestinians,” Prime Minister Marouf Bakheet told a parliamentary session.
The delegation will be led by Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal who, along with four senior officials, was accused of illegal activities in Jordan and expelled seven years ago.
A crackdown was then followed by the closure of Hamas offices and activists belonging to the group were warned to refrain from any activities in the kingdom.
Many officials in Jordan - which faces a domestic Islamist opposition closely linked to the Palestinian movement - have privately voiced concern about the possible negative repercussions of a Hamas victory on Middle East peace making.
Abdullah urged EU not to suspend international assistance
The terrorist group has a large following in Palestinian camps across the kingdom, which hosts the largest number of refugees outside the West Bank and Gaza.
King Abdullah recently urged Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to give a new Hamas-led Palestinian government a chance.
The same message was also delivered on Wednesday to the European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
“It is important to await the program of the new Palestinian government ... The future of Middle East peace making depends on that and the Israeli elections next month,” the monarch told Solana during a stopover in Amman.
Abdullah also urged the EU and other donors not to suspend international assistance to a Palestinian government because ordinary Palestinians would suffer.
The United States has said international aid could not flow to Hamas unless it recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces violence.
Abdullah, an Arab moderate with good ties with the White House, is a key player in Middle East peace efforts. Jordan in 1994 became the second Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.