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« on: September 04, 2006, 08:18:41 PM »

EU offers Hamas backdoor to win recognition

By Shada Islam & Leon Mangasarian

The European Union is offering Palestinian militant group Hamas - currently on the bloc's terrorist list - a backdoor solution on recognising Israel and ending its international pariah status. EU foreign ministers unveiled the framework for such a deal, which may create controversy with Israel and the US, at a meeting in the eastern Finnish city of Lappeenranta on Friday. Javier Solana, the EU's chief diplomat, outlined a step-by-step process which would allow Hamas to indirectly meet the 25-nation bloc's demand that the group recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace agreements in order to be de-listed as a terrorist organisation.

Solana said the first step would have to be the creation of a Palestinian government of national unity. "Of course in that government will be members of Hamas," Solana told reporters. The EU's foreign policy trouble-shooter explained that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had set conditions for such a government which were the same as those set by the EU for direct talks with Hamas. Under the EU formula, merely joining a national unity government sanctioned by Abbas would mean Hamas has accepted Europe's three demands. This would effectively give Hamas a face-saving way out of its current isolation by not demanding the group make a humiliating, formal climb-down from its hardline stance.

"If there is a government of national unity which President Abbas has negotiated and which accepts his principles, we will deal with that government," said an EU diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Asked if this would suffice to get Hamas off the terrorist list, the diplomat said: "One comes in and one comes out." Such a move would also allow millions of euros worth of EU aid to start flowing again directly to the Palestinian government. The bloc is the largest supplier of financial aid to the Palestinians, giving about 500m euros a year until Hamas won parliamentary elections in January this year.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who is chairing the talks in Lappeenranta, said discussions with all key Middle East players were vital to promote peace in the region. "For peace to be negotiated, we have to be ready to talk with everybody and anyone who is relevant," Tuomioja underlined in a clear reference to Hamas. Despite the innovative EU blueprint, the bloc's ministers were at pains to ease US and Israeli concerns that the move represented any softening of European demands. "We are not changing our policy vis-a-vis Hamas," insisted Tuomioja. Rather the focus was on putting pressure on Hamas to change its stance and accept these conditions, he said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot also stressed there was no shift in the EU's stance on Hamas while noting that an Abbas-brokered national unity government could change Hamas policy. Finland's Tuomioja said the EU was determined to ratchet up its involvement in the Middle East in the aftermath of the 34-day confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Asked if the EU was ready to deploy troops to end Israeli-Palestinian violence in Gaza, Tuomioja said "that could also be something that is needed." "We have to be prepared for that eventuality," he said. Deploying an international force, also possibly from Nato, between a future Palestinian state and Israel are among proposals aimed at achieving a durable peace in the region. The EU initiatives follow calls by the bloc that the Lebanon ceasefire should be followed by efforts to revive the crippled Middle East peace process and end Israeli-Palestinian violence, seen as the root of problems in the region.

EU offers Hamas backdoor to win recognition
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God's Word in the works and they don't even realize it! Thy will be done Lord.
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