http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1073262.html

            Last update - 19:38 23/03/2009     
     
     
      Abbas warns Europeans against easing boycott of Hamas  
     
      By Reuters  
     
      Tags: Palestinian Authority   

      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Western-backed government warned 
European states on Monday against easing a boycott of Hamas Islamists, saying 
it could put unity talks at risk. 

      Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said he relayed that message last week to 
European leaders during talks in Brussels. 

      Egyptian efforts to reconcile Abbas's secular Fatah faction, which holds 
sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza 
Strip, have so far been unsuccessful. 
            
           
      The talks, held in Cairo, were adjourned last week without agreement on 
the shape or agenda of a proposed unity government that would oversee the 
rebuilding of the Gaza Strip after Israel's offensive, as well as prepare for 
new elections. 

      Negotiations are expected to resume but big differences remain, including 
over demands by Fatah that Hamas agree to abide by interim peace agreements 
signed with Israel. Hamas has refused to make such a commitment. 

      The Islamist group, which beat Fatah in a 2006 Palestinian parliamentary 
election, is shunned by the United States and the European Union as a 
"terrorist" organization for refusing to renounce violence, recognize Israel 
and abide by interim agreements. 

      But some European states have limited contacts with the group and hold 
out the possibility of further engagement if the group, which seized control of 
the Gaza Strip in 2007 after routing Abbas's forces there, softens its stance 
on Israel. 

      Malki said European overtures could undermine the unity talks by giving 
Hamas the impression that "the international community, and especially the 
European Union, is ready to change its position towards Hamas", whether the 
group agrees to abide 
      by interim agreements or not. 

      "There wouldn't be any harm if (European states) talked to Hamas after we 
reach a reconciliation agreement and after Hamas joins the parties committed to 
the agreements," Malki said  

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