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*Britain's Hamas boycott counterproductive - lawmakers*

*Britain's Hamas boycott counterproductive - lawmakers*
*13 Aug 2007 00:05:37 GMT*
*Source: Reuters*
*By Simon Rabinovitch *


*LONDON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Britain's refusal to speak to the Islamist
group Hamas is counterproductive, a parliamentary committee said on
Monday, and efforts should be made to form a new unity Palestinian
government in the West Bank and Gaza. * *Pursuing a "West Bank first
policy" -- where Britain deals with the West Bank, which is run by the
more secular Fatah group, and isolates the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip
-- would further jeopardise peace, the House of Commons' Foreign Affairs
Committee said in a report on the Middle East. * *"Given the failure of
the boycott to deliver results, we recommend the government should
urgently consider ways of engaging politically with moderate elements
within Hamas," the all-party group of lawmakers said. * *It said
Britain's former prime minister, Tony Blair, should personally engage
with Hamas to help reconciliation in his new role as envoy for the
Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, the European
Union, the United States and Russia. * *Britain has joined in a Western
political and financial embargo of Hamas, an Islamist movement with an
armed wing that is regarded as a terrorist group by Israel, the European
Union and the United States. **Hamas has been isolated because of its
refusal to meet three criteria laid down by the Quartet -- recognition
of Israel's right to exist, renunciation of violence and adherence to
interim peace agreements with Israel. * *The parliamentary report also
recommended Britain press President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah group is
backed by the West, into negotiations with Hamas to re-establish "a
national unity government across the occupied Palestinian territories".
* *The committee said Britain had erred in enforcing the embargo against
Hamas even after the group agreed in February to form a unity government
with Fatah. That agreement was aimed at ending internal violence and
easing Western economic sanctions. * *The sustained boycott of the
Palestinian government, due to Hamas's presence in it, meant the effort
at unity had been "highly likely to collapse", the report said. *
*Factional fighting between the rival movements eventually led to Hamas
taking control of the Gaza Strip in June, while Fatah, which lost
elections to Hamas in early 2006, was reduced to administering the
larger West Bank territory. * *The committee also called for a new
approach to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. It reaffirmed the goal of
a two-state solution but said the U.S.-backed "road map for peace",
drawn up in 2002, "has largely become an irrelevance". * *Neither the
Israelis nor the Palestinians have fulfilled their commitments under the
plan, which calls for Israel to halt settlement building in the occupied
West Bank and the Palestinians to dismantle militant groups. * *The
report called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government to improve its
influence in the Arab world because of damage it said had been done to
Britain's reputation by its policies in Iraq, Lebanon and the
Palestinian territories. *
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