France considers visa for Hamas rep

Exclusive: French diplomat in Israel says that no decision has yet been taken.

hamas flags 88 (photo credit: )
hamas flags 88
(photo credit: )
France is considering issuing a visa to a Hamas representative invited to attend a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on April 10. "The decision has not yet been taken," a French diplomat in Israel said when asked whether a visa would be given to the representative so he could join two other members of the Palestinian Legislative Council at the three-day session. This issue comes fast on the heels of Hamas parliamentarian Mahmoud Ahmad al-Ramahi's failure last week to get a visa to attend the European Union's Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels. Belgian diplomatic officials said at the time that Ramahi was not issued a visa because of "technical reasons." Rules in his case were applied strictly and formally, and it was clear that no special effort was made to push the application through, as could have been done had the application come from a Palestinian VIP not affiliated with Hamas. Israel is currently engaged in efforts to ensure that Hamas is not represented at the PACE meeting. One of the arguments used is that issuing travel papers to someone affiliated with a terrorist organization runs contrary to UN Security Council Resolution 1373, an anti-terrorism measure adopted September 28, 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. The resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and is binding on all UN member states. It declares that states shall "prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents." Hamas is on the EU's list of terrorist organizations. While PACE has no institutional affiliation with the EU and its parliamentary assembly is not considered an overly significant international body, Jerusalem is concerned that if Hamas took part in these types of meetings, it would slowly gain international legitimacy. Two Israeli parliamentarians, Israel Beiteinu's Yuri Shtern and the Likud's Michael Eitan, are also scheduled to attend the PACE meeting. The invitation to the Hamas representative was issued by PACE's subcommittee on the Middle East. The subcommittee's chairman Stef Goris issued a statement when the invitation was extended saying, "We cannot ignore the legitimate outcome of the parliamentary elections which took place on 25 January, 2006. We all agree that the elections were fair and free. Therefore, we have to accept the democratically expressed will of the Palestinian people and do our best to involve those who won the elections in the political dialogue which could contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict."