Qatar emir heads to France after meeting Hamas chief for Gaza ceasefire talks

Qatar emir heads to France after meeting Hamas chief for Gaza ceasefire talks
Qatar's emir is set to arrive in Paris on Tuesday to push for a ceasefire in Gaza, hours after meeting Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh in Doha.
3 min read
27 February, 2024
Qatar has long been a key mediator between Hamas and Israel, and previous hostage release deals have been negotiated from Doha. (Photo by Presidency of Tajikistan / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is set to arrive in France on Tuesday after meeting the Hamas’ political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh on Monday in Doha.

The leader of Qatar, a key mediator between Hamas and Israel, is expected to discuss the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza with French President Emmanuel Macron and work towards a ceasefire.

Monday’s meeting with Haniyeh, which was held at Lusail Palace, in the Qatari capital Doha, centred on ongoing developments in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories and efforts to reach a ceasefire.

Qatar's head of state renewed his country's support for the Palestinian cause and the right to an independent Palestinian state "based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital", the state news agency Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

In turn, the Hamas political leader said its movement had shown "great flexibility" in the negotiations so far and accused Israel of "stalling" them.

Haniyeh added that lifting the humanitarian siege on the Gaza Strip was among his priorities.

"Stopping this war of hunger (…) should not be linked to any other issues, and we will not allow the enemy to use the negotiations as a cover for this crime," he said.

Haniyeh, who is based in Qatar, has led previous high-level Hamas delegations involved in negotiations with Israel.

Israel's onslaught on Gaza has killed at least 29,878 people to date - the majority of whom are children and women.

The crisis has pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation and raised fears of imminent famine.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid has been reduced to a trickle. Dozens of NGOs and human rights organisations accused Israel on Monday of stalling the entry of humanitarian aid into the strip. 

The meeting between the Emir of Qatar and Haniyeh comes in the context of intensifying efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

An Israeli delegation also visited Qatar on Monday to continue talks on a truce, which would likely include a swap between Palestinian detainees held in Israel and Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip. 

Efforts to reach a ceasefire will also be at the centre of the emir's first official visit to France, which started on Tuesday and will last two days. 

A press statement from the French president’s office announced that the two heads of state would "reaffirm efforts to release Israelis held by Hamas and to reach an agreement for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip".

Qatar hosts a Hamas office which doubles as the residence of its political leader, Haniyeh.

This has enabled it to play a key role in mediating between Hamas and Israel. In November, Qatar already helped negotiate a week-long truce deal in which 80 Israeli hostages were freed in exchange for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.