Hamas has been in closer contact with European governments despite Brussels' official policy of isolating the Palestinian Islamist organization, according to a report which appeared in the British daily The Guardian on Friday.
The newspaper quoted senior Hamas officials as saying that the organization which today rules the Gaza Strip has over recent months held back-channel discussions with numerous EU governments, including the United Kingdom. Other countries whose officials have held secret talks with Hamas include Sweden, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark, according to The Guardian.
Since Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, the EU, which designated the organization as a terrorist movement, has instituted a ban on all contacts. In recent months, however, European officials have met with Hamas intermediaries in Cairo, Gaza, and other capitals in an apparent effort to gauge the Islamist group's positions on regional issues.
"We try to keep the contacts low-profile because it causes trouble," Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas legislator who also served as a deputy foreign minister, told The Guardian. "We prefer not to talk about it but I can guarantee that most European countries are interested in opening doors to Hamas."
Norway and Switzerland, two non-EU states, confirmed to The Guardian that there were indeed low-level contacts with Hamas figures. The Islamist group believes these initial talks are an indication that the Europeans have reached the conclusion that the policy of isolating Hamas is no longer of value.
"Some activities are not at official levels, but there are also some at official level, away from the media," Basem Naim, Hamas' current foreign affairs chief, told The Guardian. "We have met some ambassadors and some government officials."
"Hamas is a fact on the ground, an active part of Palestinian politics," said Naim. "This is well known to all players, inside and outside [Palestine], including those in Europe. Anyone who wants to influence the politics on the ground has to take this into consideration."