Chinese embassy spokesman Lu Jing on Tuesday denied Hamas Palestinian Authority foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar's claim that he had been invited to China.
"No, never," Lu replied when asked if Beijing had followed Turkey and Russia's lead and invited a high-ranking Hamas official for talks in Beijing.
He also said he did not know of any intention to invite a Hamas official in the near future.
Zahar, after meeting in Gaza with Yang Wei Guo, the Chinese representative to the PA, told reporters he was going to China.
Yang did not comment on Zahar's planned visit, and said that his discussions with Zahar focused on "the joint relations and the bilateral projects, and we hope to continue and strengthen the cooperation and friendship in the future."
Responding to the meeting between Yang and Zahar, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "If Hamas can get recognition without changing its positions, there is no chance it will become more moderate."
Zahar's announcement of an imminent trip to China came a day after Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the organization, which is trying to break out of international isolation, had held talks with French and Indian diplomats. The French denied this, while the Indians had "no comment."
Israel has informed the Chinese, as it has other nations around the world, of its position that Hamas should be denied international legitimacy until it recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and accepts previous agreements with Israel. The matter is to be raised anew by Israel's ambassador to Beijing on Wednesday.
Zahar's announcement of his intention to visit China came just three days after China appointed a new special envoy to the Middle East, Sun Bigan, to replace envoy outgoing envoy Wang Shijie.
The two discussed Hamas with foreign journalists at a press conference in Beijing last Thursday.
"We are of the view that Hamas' victory in the legislative council indicates public opinion in Palestine and the international community should recognize and respect that," Wang said.
Sun, the new envoy, responded to a question about whether China intended to invite Hamas to Beijing and about a recent Hamas-delegation trip to Russia by saying, "The Hamas delegation visit to Russia was their business. We hope that any actions, including visits, can be conducive to peace in the Middle East."
Zahar gave an interview to China's Xinhua news agency Saturday and said he dreamt "of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it." This dream, he said, "will become real one day. I'm certain of this because there is no place for the state of Israel on this land."