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British MPs urge government to engage with Hamas moderates

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-26

The British government has been urged to engage with moderates in Hamas by a UK parliamentary committee, which concluded that not talking with the group, which rules the Gaza Strip, was achieving little.

AFP - The British government was urged to start engaging with moderates in Hamas in a report by lawmakers scrutinising London's foreign policy published on Sunday.
  
The House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee said that not talking to Hamas -- the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip -- was achieving little.
  
Britain refuses to talk to Hamas until it accepts the principles of the international Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- of non-violence and acceptance of Israel's existence.
  
"We see few signs that the current policy of non-engagement with Hamas is achieving the Quartet's stated objectives," said committee chairman Mike Gapes.
  
"We therefore reiterate our recommendation from 2007, that the government should urgently consider engaging with moderate elements within Hamas."
  
The report contrasted the government's stance with its decision to open contacts with the political wing of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
  
"We further conclude that the credible peace process for which the Quartet hopes, as part of its strategy for undercutting Hamas, is likely to be difficult to achieve without greater co-operation from Hamas itself," the report said.
  
"We are concerned that the Quartet is continuing to fail to provide Hamas with greater incentives to change its position.
  
"The government should set out the specific indicators, if any, that would trigger a shift of British government policy towards engagement with Hamas.
  
"We further recommend that the government should set out the relevant differences between the cases of Hezbollah and Hamas that lead it to conclude that engagement with moderate elements within Hamas is not currently worth attempting."
  
The committee said the EU should make any "upgrade" of its relations with Israel conditional on the Jewish state ending settlement growth, which was "prejudicial to the achievement of a two-state solution."
  
It criticised both Hamas and Israel over the Gaza conflict last year, accusing Hamas of targeting civilians in its rocket attacks on Israel while describing the Israeli military response as "disproportionate".
  
The committee also condemned Israel's continuing refusal to allow unrestricted humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.

Date created : 2009-07-26

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