Hamas says mayors met EU envoys

Palestinian resistance group Hamas says European Union (EU) diplomats have met some of its newly elected mayors, marking an apparent shift in the EU's position towards the group it designates a terrorist organisation.

    The UK's Jack Straw (R) says diplomats met Hamas officials

    Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri's comments on Thursday coincided with an

    Israeli newspaper report that the EU had given some low-level

    diplomats permission to meet representatives of the group's

    political wing.

    In Brussels, EU officials said they had reached no collective decision on whether to change their policy towards Hamas.

    Al-Masri said the mayors, elected in local council polls over

    the past several months, had discussed international assistance

    and the current de facto ceasefire with Israel with EU diplomats

    in recent meetings.

    "Hamas is open to dialogue with all countries except the

    Zionist enemy, which occupies the land and kills our people,"

    al-Masri said.

    More than 3000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the start of the second intifada (uprising) in 2000. In the same period, Palestinian resistance movements are accused of killing

    more than 900 Israelis

    Hamas has recently made a good showing in local elections.

    British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw disclosed last week that

    diplomats from his country had met officials from Hamas'

    political wing on two occasions.

    But he said Britain would not have

    contact with Hamas leaders until the group renounced violence.

    US surprise

    In an unsourced report, the Haaretz daily said the EU

    decision had surprised the US - a co-sponsor with

    the EU, Russia and the United Nations of the Middle East peace

    road map - and raised Israeli concerns.

    "Hamas is open to dialogue with all countries except the

    Zionist enemy, which occupies the land and kills our people"


    Mushir al-Masri,
    Hamas spokesman 

    The US also classifies Hamas as a terrorist

    group.

    Diplomats in Washington have said the US is

    showing signs of easing its hardline approach towards Hamas in

    response to the group's growing political influence. But the

    White House has said there has been no such change.

    Tel Aviv, which rejects any contact with Hamas, on Thursday protested against increasing EU contact with Hamas and pressed EU officials to maintain their official designation of the group as a terrorist organisation.

    "We believe Europeans should be strengthening moderate
    Palestinians and not appeasing the extremists," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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