Hamas: We did not go to Tehran to apologise
The visit of a senior Hamas delegation to Iran is a further sign that the reconciliation between the two formerly close regional allies is deepening, say analysts.
Raafat Marra, a top official in the delegation which arrived in Tehran on December 8, stressed that the delegation's visit did not imply a change in Hamas policy, or that the Gaza-based group was attempting to apologise or correct any diplomatic "mistake".
He said the visit reflected both parties' desire to maintain their relationship, adding the visit was not necessarily intended to pave the way for another visit to Tehran by the Hamas political chief, Khaled Meshaal.
Until 2011, Iran was one of Hamas' most important supporters in the region, supplying Hamas with weapons and a reported $23 million a month.
However, relations deteriorated in 2011 over the issue of support for Syria. Meshaal relocated from Damascus to Qatar, and Iran reportedly cut off all aid.
|[The visit] comes in the context of the need to mobilise the potential of the Islamic nation to support the Palestinian people.
- Mohammed Nasr, Hamas
Efforts at reconciliation have been underway since at least the beginning of the year, when high-level contacts between the two were resumed and a senior Iranian foreign ministry official visited Meshaal in Doha in May.
The Israeli war on Gaza over the summer also brought the two sides closer, with high-level Iranian officials publicly expressing support for Hamas.
Marra told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the two parties did not lose contact after 2011, as "meetings continued to be held, whether in Beirut or Tehran".
"During the meetings, all issues in the region were discussed, along with the US intervention and the roles that Israel-affiliated parties seek to play," he said.
Marra admitted there had been tension between Hamas and Tehran, "but it was limited to certain issues, namely the stance on movements in the Arab world", he said.
"We ensured the separation of the contentious and core issues, which are the issues of Palestine, resistance and the rejection of settlements," he added.
When asked if the visit meant the return of financial support from Iran to Hamas, Marra answered only that "we neither impose nor accept conditions, every side puts forward its point of view".
Mohammad Nasr, heading the delegation, said the visit to Iran "comes in the context of the need to mobilise the potential of the Islamic nation to support the Palestinian people, their just cause and their heroic resistance".
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.