TEHRAN (Reuters) -A Hamas spokesman said on Monday Hamas members held talks two months ago with French officials and more recently with an Indian diplomat despite U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate the Islamic militant group.
“Meetings were held here (in Gaza) two months ago with French officials,” said Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri, without identifying them or providing any details about the talks.
France’s ambassador to Israel, Gerard Araud, denied French officials have any contact with Hamas, which won elections in January and formally took control of the Palestinian Authority last week.
Araud said France, like the European Union, expected Hamas to first renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by interim peace deals.
“We don’t have any contact with the Hamas … We won’t have any contact with the Hamas whatsoever, as long as they don’t satisfy the three well-known conditions,” the ambassador, speaking in English, told Army Radio.
Israel and the United States have sought to isolate Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, since its election victory.
Israel has suspended tax revenue transfers to the Palestinians, and Washington has ordered all U.S. diplomats and contractors to cut off contacts with Palestinian ministries, including independents and technocrats in the new Hamas government.
Like the United States, the European Union has ruled out contacts with Hamas as long as it does not renounce violence and recognize Israel.
But Russia — partnered with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations in the Quartet of Middle East mediators — has already held high-level talks with Hamas in Moscow.
Abu Zuhri said: “There is an understanding by France of the necessity for the European Union to reconsider its position regarding Hamas and they have promised to make an effort with other European countries in this regard.”
Abu Zuhri said Hamas leaders also held talks in Gaza two weeks ago with India’s representative in the Palestinian territories.
He said those talks took place at the home of senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who was sworn in last week as Palestinian prime minister.
Abu Zuhri said the Indian diplomat, whom he did not identify by name, told Haniyeh that India wanted to maintain relations with Hamas and to continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
India’s representative based in the West Bank city of Ramallah was not immediately available to comment. A spokesman for the Indian Embassy in Israel declined to comment.
Diplomatic and commercial ties between Israel and India have increased sharply since the countries established full diplomatic relations in 1992. They have signed several major defense deals.
Last year, Hamas leaders said they held talks with some EU diplomats and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in a television interview that diplomats from Britain had met officials from Hamas’s political wing on two occasions.