British Lawmakers Meet Hamas Leader in Syria

British Embassy confirms Meshal meeting, but denies Syrian media report that ambassador attended.

A British parliamentary delegation on a visit to Syria has met Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal as part of European efforts to communicate with the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas said on Wednesday.

The meeting with Meshal, who lives in Syria, took place in Damascus on Tuesday.

The British Embassy confirmed the meeting but denied a Syrian media report that Ambassador Simon Collis attended.

Richard Spring, a member of parliament from the opposition Conservative party who heads the nine-member delegation, was not among those who met Meshaal, the embassy said.

The British government boycotts Hamas, in line with a European Union position not to have official contacts with the group unless it renounces armed struggle, recognizes Israel's right to exist and past agreements between the Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

In March, four members of the British parliament urged the British government to end its boycott of the Palestinian group after meeting Meshal.

Calls have mounted in Britain and major European powers to engage with Hamas after Israel's offensive against the Islamist group in Gaza, which ended in January.