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Middle East
British MPs meet Hamas leader
The MPs say the talks are necessary to make progress towards peace.
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2009 00:15 GMT

Members of parliament from Italy and Greece are expected to meet Meshaal next week [Reuters]

Four members of the British parliament have met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and urged their government to end its boycott of the Palestinian group "to achieve just peace".

Clare Short, an MP of the governing Labour Party, told reporters after the meeting in Damascus on Saturday: "We need to talk to Hamas to make progress (toward peace) because they represent a big proportion of the Palestinians."

Short said that opening up discussions with Hamas immediately would "move things forward in the hope that we in the end achieve just peace".

Britain, along with the European Union and the United States, has said there can be no dealing with Hamas until it recognises Israel, renounces armed struggle and accepts interim peace accords.

Engaging Hamas

The meeting was publicised, in contrast to several European politicians who met Meshaal in the last few months away from the spotlight.

In depth


Analysis and features from after the war

The delegation included a second Labour member of the House of Commons and two Liberal Democrat members of the upper chamber, the House of Lords.

One Irish parliamentarian and one member of the Scottish parliament were also present.

Parliamentarians from Italy and Greece are expected to visit Damascus to meet Meshaal next week.

Calls have increased in the West to deal with Hamas after the Israeli invasion of Gaza which was halted in January.

Meshaal had urged the West lift its boycott of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

'Open to talks'

Hamas won a parliamentary election in 2006 and drove its Fatah rivals from Gaza by force in 2007.

The two groups are currently holding talks on a Palestinian unity government under Egyptian auspices in Cairo.

Britain said this month it was open to hold talks with the political wing of Hezbollah after the group joined a unity government last year.

France, which played a role in halting the Gaza war, has indicated that it might be prepared to hold talks with Hamas even if Hamas did not recognise Israel.

Leaders of Hamas have said they are not prepared to recognise Israel but would accept establishment of a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war in return for a truce with Tel Aviv lasting decades.

Source:
Agencies
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