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(photo credit: AP)
China and Switzerland have informed Palestinian officials they will deal with the new Palestinian Authority unity government, the Palestinian information minister said Monday.
Both nations said their policy had not changed, and both have dealt with Hamas in the past, but the development appeared to reinforce a Palestinian effort to win recognition for their new government.
Envoys from Switzerland and China met recently with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, an independent, and informed him of their position, said Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti.
Barghouti said Switzerland and China told the Palestinians that "they are going to deal with our government, without any discrimination between its members."
The Hamas-Fatah coalition was formed last month, following a power-sharing deal between the two political rivals.
In response, the European Union and the US said they would meet only meet with non-Hamas members of the Cabinet. The coalition replaced a Hamas-only Cabinet that was the target of an international aid boycott.
In Switzerland, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Philippe Jeannerat noted that Switzerland never did impose an outright boycott on the Hamas government - unlike the US, EU and Israel. But he did not say specifically that his nation's envoys would meet with Hamas ministers now.
Barghouti's announcement came as China's Middle East envoy, Sun Bigan, was in the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Jing Lu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Tel Aviv, said he was unaware of any new statement of Chinese policy and noted that Sun was not scheduled to meet with Hamas members during his swing through the region.
"Up to now, we haven't had any direct contact with Hamas people, including those Hamas members in the unity government," he said. China, however, was among the countries which hosted members of the previous Hamas government.
Sun met Monday with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem. Details of their discussion were not made public, but the fact the meeting took place appeared to confirm he had not met Hamas representatives on this trip. In the past, diplomats who held such meetings were not granted access to Israeli officials.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment directly on Barghouti's remarks but said he believed there was still an international consensus against dealings with Hamas.
"We believe it's very important that the international community not give legitimacy to an unreformed Hamas movement that refuses to renounce violence, refuses to recognize Israel and refuses to support peace," Regev said.
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