hamas flags 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Norway on Tuesday said it has granted an entry visa to a Hamas representative and was processing the application of another as part of a planned visit that has angered Israel.
Palestinians Salah Muhammad al-Bardawil and Mohammad al-Rantissi were invited to Norway by the national Palestine Committee. They were originally expected to arrive on May 15, but their visit was delayed as their visa applications were being processed.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration said one of them was granted a so-called Schengen visa, which allows free travel in 15 European nations, while the other request was still under review. In keeping with its policy of confidentiality in individual cases, the directorate refused to say which one had been granted a visa.
Earlier this month, Israel warned Norway that giving entry visas to the two Hamas representatives would be considered a "political gesture."
The two were previously denied a Schengen visa by France. Both the European Union and the United States consider Hamas, which won Palestinian elections earlier this year, a terrorist group.
Norway is not an EU member, but is part of the Schengen area.
"The application was presented to the Schengen nations, and there were no objections," the directorate said about the approved visa. "For the other applicant, whose earlier applications for a Schengen visa had been rejected, the deadline for comment lasts a few more days."
The announcement came a day after Atef Adwan, the refugee minister in the new Hamas government, completed a three-day visit to Norway. Norwegian political leaders refused to meet him in keeping with a policy of shunning direct contact with Hamas.
All three visits stirred debate in Norway about whether government members should meet Hamas, and, if so, at what level. The government has said it will not meet any of them at a cabinet level.
A new date for the visit by one or both Palestinians was pending.