Abbas Haniyeh 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The European Union would support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas if he reconciled with Hamas, according to Christina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana.
Speaking to visiting Israeli reporters in Brussels on Thursday, she said the EU, nonetheless, still held firm to its policy not to recognize Hamas until it recognizes Israel.
Gallach said it was up to Abbas to find a way to handle Hamas. "What we tell him [Abbas] is that he is the one we recognize, the one we support," she said. "We work very well with him and [PA] Prime Minister Salaam Fayad."
In the past, Gallach said, the EU found a way to move forward with Fatah when it sat in a government with Hamas, dealing solely with Abbas and some of his Fatah ministers.
Her statements came in response to media reports of possible talks between Hamas and Fatah just one month before the US-sponsored Middle East meeting expected to be held in Annapolis on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"We tell [Abbas] he has to do what he thinks is right," Gallach said. "On this issue, we will not take the lead."
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday night that Hamas would be willing to hold talks with Fatah and hinted it would consider ceding control of the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera reported.
"There is a serious improvement in Palestinian dialogue, and we have agreed to hold talks with Fatah in one of the Arab capitals," Haniyeh reportedly said.
He reportedly said the Hamas administration in Gaza was "temporary," adding that dialogue with Fatah would be established following Ramadan.
Nabil Amr, a senior Fatah official and key adviser to Abbas, on Thursday strongly denied reports about secret talks between his faction and Hamas. He said Fatah would not talk to Hamas unless the Islamist movement relinquished control over the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas is a terror organization, and any connection of any type whatsoever to Hamas will not bring peace - not to Israel and not to the Palestinians," a Foreign Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of former senior US officials and congressmen pushed for dialogue with Hamas ahead of the Annapolis peace conference.
"We believe that a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation; it could be conducted, for example, by the UN and Quartet Middle East envoys," they wrote in a letter to the Bush administration published Wednesday. "If Syria or Hamas are ostracized, prospects that they will play a spoiler role increase dramatically."
The signatories included former George H.W. Bush administration national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, former Carter administration national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.
The letter praised the invitation extended to Syria and called for the conference to launch Israeli-Syrian talks.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday the administration would review the letter, one of several offering guidance from former officials.
"If it's a serious letter with serious suggestions from serious people, of course we're going to take a look at it," he said. "If there are some good ideas out there that we can feed into the process, absolutely we'll take them into account."
At the Thursday press conference, Gallach said she was hopeful the conference would yield results. Among those representing the EU at the conference will be Solana and EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero Waldner.
The EU Parliament on Thursday said it hoped the conference would "contribute to a just and lasting peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. But it took Israel to task for the closure of the Gaza crossings since the Hamas takeover in June. It passed a resolution that called on Israel to "lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip."
In response to recent threats that Israel would cut off fuel and electricity to Gaza should the rocket attacks continue, the parliament also called on Israel to guarantee the continued flow of these utilities.
Since June, the main commercial crossing at Karni has been closed. Instead, humanitarian aid, food and medicine have gone into Gaza through alternative crossings at Sufa and Kerem Shalom. The pedestrian passageway from Gaza into Egypt at Rafah has been closed, and the EU monitoring mission there has suspended its operations.
"It is difficult for Israel to open the passage [at Rafah] given the current circumstances," Gallach said. "We should be realistic; we do not think this is an issue that will be solved immediately."
She said the EU remained committed to the people in Gaza, adding, "They have a right to all the support we can give them."
Gallach said the EU had not called off its border mission at Rafah because "we think this is the clearest message to the Palestinian people" of the EU's continued support.
Hilary Leila Krieger and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.