Al-Monitor‘s Andrew Parasiliti reports from New York:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas got off to a chilly start in their first ever meeting at the summit of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), hosted by Iran late last month (August 31, 2012).
According to a participant in the meeting, who spoke exclusively to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, Ahmadinejad was obligated to invite Abbas, as leader of Palestinian Authority, a member of the Non Aligned Movement, to the summit in Tehran.
Abbas had not planned to meet with Ahmadinejad during the summit, but agreed when the Iranian president requested a formal meeting after Abbas had arrived in Tehran.
After the ceremonial pleasantries, Abbas asked whether Ahmadinejad had invited Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh to the NAM summit, as Hamas had claimed. Ahmadinejad said he personally had not extended an invitation, although the Iranian Foreign Ministry had in fact invited Haniyeh as a special guest. Haniyeh decided not to attend only after Abbas threatened not to participate in the summit if Haniyeh did.
Abbas told Ahmadinejad that his references to eliminating Israel hurt the Palestinian cause. Ahmadinejad was taken aback by the criticism, apparently having thought his aggressive language on Israel would be a boost to the Palestinians. Abbas said that was not the case, and that it would be more helpful to talk about putting Palestine on the map, rather than wiping Israel off the map.
Ahmadinejad offered to mediate reconciliation talks with Hamas, but the offer was politely deflected by Abbas.
Abbas also declined a subsequent invitation to visit Tehran, although he has not ruled out a future visit to Iran.
–Andrew Parasiliti is CEO & Editor at Large for Al-Monitor.
(Photo: Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L-R) prepare to take a group photo during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Ra’ouf Mohseni/Mehr News Agency.)