Mashaal 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Two French senators met with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus at the beginning of February, according to a Thursday report in The Independent.
According to the British newspaper, Mashaal told the French delegation that "the most difficult issue" facing Hamas was Palestinian unity. An unnamed source connected with the talks was quoted as saying, "Mashaal said the Palestinian Authority no longer represents anything," and that Hamas was "convinced that the Arab street is with them."
An unnamed European diplomat was quoted by the paper as saying, "Far more people are talking to Hamas than anyone might think... It is the beginning of something new - although we are not negotiating."
The Jerusalem Post could not immediately confirm the veracity of the report.
The international Quartet for Middle East peace, which consists of the US, the EU, the UN and Russia, has blacklisted Hamas as a terror organization, due to its failure to recognize Israel and renounce violence. Quartet states are therefore banned from political contact with the Islamic group.
The Independent also reported that two British parliamentarians had traveled to Beirut to meet with Osama Hamdan, a top Hamas official based in Lebanon. The Independent quoted Hamdan as saying that MPs from Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as three other Western European countries, had also met with Hamas officials in recent months.
A British Foreign Office spokesman appeared to confirm the meetings in The Independent report, with a spokesman quoted as saying that the MPs who visited Beirut "were not engaged in back channel or officially sanctioned talks."