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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Dialoguer avec le Hamas

by By Véronique de Keyser, interviewed by Françoise Germain-Robin

The EU and Palestine: Maintaining the Dialogue with Hamas

Translated by Ann Drummond

Translated Monday 24 April 2006, by Ann Drummond

HUMA: Can there be negotiations with the Palestinian government?

Véronique de Keyser: My last intervention in the European Parliament was precisely to say that we shouldn’t break off relations with the Palestinian government, and above all, not to cut EU aid. That was two days before the Council decision to cut that aid. It was a decision I cannot understand and one which couldn’t have been predicted, not even in the statements of Mr. Solana in the debate we had about it in the European Parliament. No-one on the benches [of the French National Assembly], even those who believe Hamas to be a terrorist organisation, expected such a drastic and sudden decision, which now aligns Europe alongside the most hard-line US positions. It risks having a catastrophic effect on Palestinians in economic, political and psychological terms.

I believe, and I have said this in public, that the situation there is atrocious and in fact needs more, not less, in the way of contacts and aid. An example is the problem of avian flu, which is very serious in terms of the suffering and overcrowding there is, in particular in the Gaza Strip. In cutting aid and cooperation, we are running the risk of facing an even greater pandemic and one which will also affect Israel. In terms of policy, if we cut aid to the government, it will no longer be able to pay its employees who make up 35% of Palestinian wage earners. That will be the end of the Palestinian administration and hence chaos.

So let me be absolutely clear - I believe we must have talks with Hamas. It won the election very democratically, as all the observers who were there testified. I am not the only one saying this: Carter and Clinton have said it as well. It is even truer now that Hamas has begun to pave the way forward. It has reiterated its offer of a long-term ceasefire, which is very significant. It goes without saying that a halt to attacks is a prerequisite. Hamas must also recognise Israel, but here too there has been a preliminary overture in the letter to the UN Secretary Kofi Annan from the Palestinian government.

Speaking of two states is an implicit recognition of the right of Israel to exist. Not enough, it’s true... but we have to admit that there is a real problem. Within which borders should Israel be recognised? The Israeli government itself is unable to answer that question. You cannot demand something of the Palestinian government which is not also asked of Israel. If you are really in favour of the existence of two states, then the question of the borders is central and bilateral. It must be sorted out by negotiation, not unilaterally, and not by force.

I am very concerned that the EU, in adopting as it has such a radical position, is not helping the process of implementing a negotiated settlement. I do not believe this is a good way of encouraging Hamas to make fresh overtures. On the contrary even, for this tactic of applying pressure through economic sanctions, which will result in yet more suffering for the population, smacks to me of Iraq. I don’t believe this is the EU’s intention, but it risks being perceived as such by the Palestinians. They may regard Europe in future as behaving just like the US, and I am afraid that we won’t be as welcome as in the past. I will find out next week as I am going back to the Palestinian Territories to finally conclude the observer mission I was entrusted with. The EU decision, which I do not agree with, puts me in a very tricky position.

Published in l’Humanité, 15 March 2006

http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2006-04-15/2006-04-15-828229


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