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British envoy meets Palestinian PM

A British envoy has met Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, to discuss efforts to free an abducted journalist, despite an EU ban on contacts with members of the Hamas.

Richard Makepeace, Britain’s consul-general in Jerusalem, met Haniya in Gaza on Thursday to discuss the March 12 abduction of the BBC’s Alan Johnston.

“We had asked for a meeting with the prime minister over this very important humanitarian issue,” Makepeace said after the 30-minute meeting.

“I believe all of us want to achieve a peaceful and a quick solution to this unfortunate problem.”

It was the first meeting between a representative of the British government and a Hamas member of the new Palestinian unity government.

“This is just to discuss the kidnapping. It doesn’t represent a change of policy,” a British diplomat said before the meeting.

The European Union considers Hamas to be a ‘terrorist’ organisation.

International boycott

Johnston was seized while driving his car in Gaza. There has been no public word on his fate despite Palestinian government pledges to find him.

Ghazi Hamad, a Palestinian government spokesman, said: “I think we are on the way to resolve it [Johnston’s release]. But we need more time, to bring him alive and not harmed, without using force, but we are discussing all choices.”

He said Haniya told the British envoy that he hoped the meeting would lead to a dialogue with Britain on political and economic issues

Israel has called on Western powers to maintain an international boycott of the Hamas-led unity government, which has rejected their demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace deals.

A senior Israeli official told Reuters news agency that the meeting harmed efforts to isolate Hamas and could send a message to the group it could gain ground diplomatically if foreigners were abducted.

“This undermines our policy and opens the door to further abductions,” the official, who declined to be identified, said.

The US has said it would hold unofficial contacts with non-Hamas ministers and Britain and some other European countries have taken a similar line.

Western diplomats have said there is a general understanding since Hamas came to power in March 2006 that their no-contact policies could be relaxed in extreme cases such as kidnappings.

Nisan 5, 2007 - Posted by | Dünya, Diğer, England, English, Filistin, Güncel, Genel, Haberler, Middle East, News, Palestina, UK, World

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