DOHA: Qatar said on Tuesday that Hamas’ political leadership would stay in Doha as long as their presence remained beneficial to mediation efforts aimed at ending the war in Gaza.

“As long as their presence here in Doha, as we have always said, is useful and positive in this mediation effort, they will remain here,” foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari told a press conference.

Qatar, which has hosted Hamas’ political leadership since 2012 with the blessing of the United States, has been engaged in weeks of behind-the-scenes talks on a possible truce in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

But after mediators, also including the US and Egypt, failed to bring about a pause in fighting during Ramazan, Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said last week that Qatar was reassessing its role. The announcement prompted speculation that Hamas could be asked to quit the gas-rich Gulf state.

Ansari confirmed Qatar was continuing to reassess its mediation role and that a decision on the presence of Hamas members in Doha “will not be taken unless we are finished with that reassessment”.

Qatar, which also hosts the region’s largest US military base, has rebuffed frequent criticism of its mediation efforts from Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ansari said on Tuesday the decision to re-evaluate those efforts was prompted by frustration with political attacks including from “ministers in Netanyahu’s government, who spoke negatively about the Qatari mediation.” He added: “They all know what the Qatari role is, its nature, and its details during the previous stage and they lied.”

Qatar successfully brokered the only pause in the Gaza war so far, a week-long truce in November during which scores of Israeli and foreign prisoners were released.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

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