BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European leaders said on Thursday the Islamic movement Hamas, which swept to victory in a Palestinian parliamentary election, must renounce violence or risk international isolation.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters the “indispensable conditions” for France to be able to work with any Palestinian government included “the renunciation of violence and … the recognition of Israel”.
Hamas, which is officially committed to the destruction of Israel and has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in the Jewish state over the last six years, is outlawed as a terrorist organization by the 25-nation European Union.
It defeated the long-dominant Fatah faction in Wednesday’s parliamentary vote, then held out the chance of a coalition with Fatah and other parties — and reaffirmed its commitment to what it calls armed resistance to Israeli occupation.
“The international community will want Hamas to make a proper rejection of violence and to acknowledge that Israel exists,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a close ally of Israel, said a Hamas victory would be “very, very negative”.
“Everything that we have hoped for regarding peace between Israel and Palestine would be put back to who knows when.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds called on Hamas to “radically change its politics, otherwise Sweden and the EU cannot cooperate with the incoming Palestinian government”.
“They must distance themselves from all use of violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist in order for the rest of the world to support the Palestinians,” she said.
Russia played down the impact of the Hamas victory on relations, saying Moscow had worked primarily with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who remains in office.
“Our general policy of cooperation with the Palestinian Authority is unchanged. We will judge the future government by its deeds. We are counting on the course chosen by Abbas continuing,” Russia’s special envoy to the Middle East, Alexander Kalugin, told Interfax.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU, the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian Authority, should make clear it would work “with any government if that government is prepared to work for peace by peaceful means”.
But EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who represents EU governments, responded more cautiously.
“These results may confront us with an entirely new situation which will need to be analyzed by the Council (of EU foreign ministers) next Monday,” he said in a statement.