(photo credit: AP [file])
Portugal's Foreign Minister Luis Amado, one of 10 EU foreign ministers who signed a letter hinting at the need to engage Hamas, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the initiative "was in the past."
"The position of the EU is quite clear at this moment," Amado said at the end of a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. "After what happened in Gaza [the Hamas takeover in June], the commitment of the EU to support the government of [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas is total."
Portugal currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, a position that gives it increased clout inside the EU for six months.
"The letter was in the past, absolutely," Amado said, adding that he did not now think it wise to engage Hamas. Since the letter was published in July, Israeli officials have expressed concern that cracks were appearing in Europe's wall against dealing with Hamas.
Amado said the EU was not homogeneous, and that "you have a dynamic of different sensibilities and different ideas on the way to deal with some conflicts and issues on our external agenda. But after a certain time of discussion, of lobbying, of discussing different perceptions, we take orientations, and the orientation we have toward the Middle East peace process is the one I mentioned to you."
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said that visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who was a leading force behind the letter, also told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a meeting Tuesday that France supports the policy of not talking to Hamas.
Regarding other Middle East diplomatic issues, Amado said the EU favored inviting Syria to the upcoming American-sponsored international meeting in Washington, a position at odds with that of Israel and the US.
"To have a successful summit I believe we need to have an important bilateral agreement with a strong regional commitment, and with a strong international community commitment," he said. "I favor a good regional approach, and if to have a good regional approach we need to have Syria, I believe Syria should be invited."
Amado said that in the final analysis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not just impact on those in the region, but "on the stability of the international system."
"It would be important" for Israel and the PA to reach a written agreement of some kind before the planned November meeting, he said. Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams have been set up to work on such a document.
Amado said one of the reasons such an agreement was so important was because it would go a long way toward prying the Gaza Strip out of Hamas's control.
"I believe that if we have an agreement in this [November] meeting, we certainly can expect that we can have a new dynamic in the Palestinian political camp," he said. "What is important to stress now is that we cannot ignore the impact that an agreement can have in the dynamic of the Palestinian political camp, and we can expect that it will help to consolidate and recompose the unity of the Palestinians."