Lawmakers Urge UK to talk to Hamas


LONDON (Reuters) – Lawmakers urged the British government on Sunday to talk to moderates within Hamas, saying the West’s policy of shunning the Palestinian Islamist group was showing little sign of success.

The British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report it stood by a recommendation it first made two years ago that the government should engage politically with moderate elements within Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Britain and other Western nations reject contact with Hamas because of its refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace deals.

Russia is the only member of the Quartet of Middle East peace brokers — which also comprises the United States, the United Nations and the European Union — talking to Hamas.

“We conclude that there continue to be few signs that the current policy of non-engagement is achieving the Quartet’s stated objectives,” the committee said.

“We further conclude that the credible peace process for which the Quartet hopes, as part of its strategy for undercutting Hamas, is likely to be difficult to achieve without greater cooperation from Hamas itself.”

The committee said it was concerned the Quartet was failing to provide Hamas with greater incentives to change its position. It said Britain should talk to Hamas moderates as a way of encouraging the group to meet the Quartet principles.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government changed policy in March by saying it was open to talks with the political wing of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah, but it remains opposed to talking to Hamas.

The committee, made up of Members of Parliament from all the main political parties, said it was dismayed that, six months after the end of fighting in Gaza, there was still no ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. There had been little change to several issues that contributed to the conflict, it said.

“We conclude that this situation makes for an ongoing risk of insecurity and a renewed escalation of violence,” it said.

Israel invaded Gaza on December 27, 2008 and fighting continued until January 18, 2009, killing more than 1,000 people.

The committee said it was deeply concerned about the high number of casualties, the extent of the damage and allegations of violations of international law during the Gaza conflict.

“We conclude that Hamas targets civilians in its armed actions, and that Israel’s military action in Gaza was disproportionate,” it said.

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