Hamas pleased with European ‘U-turn’

Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 14, 2007

Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip said Tuesday they were encouraged by the “positive” change in the position of some European countries toward the Islamist movement.

Fatah, on the other hand, expressed concern over increased calls in Europe to negotiate with Hamas and warned that such a move would undermine the moderates among the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said he expected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to disappear from the political scene before the end of the year.

“After he goes to the international conference in the fall, he will discover that he made a mistake by depending on the Americans and Israelis,” he said, referring to the peace conference called by US President George W. Bush. “He will then be forced to resign. Abbas is a dictator and his attempts to undermine Hamas are doomed to fail.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his movement was prepared to launch talks with the Europeans without delay. “They are beginning to realize that the boycott of the Hamas government is ineffective and pointless,” he said.

Hamas, he said, welcomes calls to talk with the Europeans.

“The new voices we are hearing in Europe are an admission that the policy of boycotting the Hamas government was a mistake,” said Muhammed al-Madhoun, a senior aide to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. “The boycott and the sanctions that were imposed on the Hamas government were a grave mistake because they only complicated the situation in the Middle East.”

The Hamas official welcomed “positive” changes in the position of Italy and Britain toward Hamas and called on other European countries to follow suit. He also welcomed statements by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who called for negotiating with Hamas to help the movement “develop politically.”

Prodi told journalists Monday at a press conference, “Hamas exists. It’s a complex structure that we should help to evolve – but this should be done with transparency. One must push for dialogue so that it happens, and not shut anyone out.”

A spokesman for the Italian prime minister later clarified that Prodi was not suggesting that Hamas be included in negotiations between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas.

A report by non-partisan Britain’s House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee released Monday also recommended that lawmakers “urgently consider ways of engaging politically with moderate elements within Hamas.”

The committee appealed to former prime minister Tony Blair to join the effort to reunite Hamas with Abbas’s Fatah faction. “The international community must bear in mind that Hamas came to power as a result of a democratic and free election,” al-Madhoun added.

He accused the US and Israel of exerting pressure on Abbas not to talk to Hamas.

Riad Malki, the Information minister in the Ramallah-based government of Salaam Fayad, said the Europeans were making a mistake by thinking that Hamas could be a partner. He said the only way to deal with Hamas was by further isolating the movement on all fronts.

Aª senior PA official in Ramallah said he was “disgusted” to hear that some Europeans were calling for negotiations with Hamas. “Those in Italy and Britain who want to talk to Hamas are undermining moderate Palestinians and emboldening the radicals,” he said. “We hope that the Europeans will wake up and refrain from committing such a huge mistake.”

August 15, 2007 | Comments Off on Hamas pleased with European ‘U-turn’

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