Hamas Urges Direct Dialogue With EU, Gaza Official Says

France FM Bernard says Paris would be willing to hold direct dialogue with Hamas if the Palestinian Authority requests it.

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Hamas officials on Saturday called on European Union countries to start direct dialogue with the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton visiting a UN-run summer camp in Gaza July 18, 2010. Credit: Reuters

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had earlier Saturday expressed his country's readiness to hold direct dialogue with Hamas, "if France receives an official request from the Palestinian Authority."

"The European Union and France shouldn't hesitate in having direct dialogue with Hamas on the basis of direct dialogue and not on the basis of containment," said Ismail Radwan, a Gaza-based senior Hamas leader.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton visited the Gaza Strip last week, but did not meet with any leaders of Hamas, which seized control of the enclave by force in 2007.

The Hamas movement, which is listed by the United States and Europe among the world's terrorist organizations, won 2006 legislative elections held in the Palestinian territories.

"Hamas is keeping its doors opened for anyone who wants to have a dialogue with the movement," said Radwan, adding "Hamas has now a government and a parliament."

Hamas continues to rebuff the demands of the diplomatic group known as the Quartet - made up of the U.S., UN, EU and Russia - to recognize Israel and the signed interim peace treaties and condemn violence.

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