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(photo credit: AP)
Britain will not withdraw aid from the Palestinian people because they voted for the militant group Hamas in elections last month - but funding will be cut if it is used for terror activities, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday.
"None of us have any interest whatever in, as it were, punishing the Palestinian people for giving the 'wrong' answer in those elections," Straw told Parliament in reply to lawmakers' questions. "We are very conscious of that."
"These were free and fair elections and we have got to respect the decisions of the Palestinian people."
"At the same time nor can we gratuitously reward Hamas if they carry on with active support of terrorism and violence."
Straw said the four parties urging the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the peace table - the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union - had come to "a very responsible and cautious decision" on funding for the Palestinians.
"Aid that is being paid anyway continues to be paid. The ball is in the court of Hamas. We are not expecting them to stand on their heads and abandon every position they have held in the past overnight," he said.
"We are expecting from them however clear indications of the direction in which they travel."
Last week the so-called Quartet pledged to continue paying aid to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's interim caretaker administration but warned the money - more than US$1 billion dollars - would be in jeopardy if Hamas failed to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
The militant group trounced Abbas' Fatah Party in legislative elections last month and is expected to lead the next Palestinian government.
Gerald Kaufman, a lawmaker from the governing Labour Party, told Parliament on Tuesday that the withdrawal of any aid would bolster support for Hamas.
"It is undeniable that withdrawal or reduction of aid to the Palestinians because they voted for Hamas will only strengthen their intention to vote for Hamas again," he said.
"The punishment of the Palestinians is one of the reasons behind their vote for Hamas."
"Until poverty, oppression and deprivation among the Palestinians is dealt with, there will be no hope for peace, both for the Israelis and the Palestinians."
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