France Confirms Political Contact to Hamas | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.05.2008
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France Confirms Political Contact to Hamas

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed a newspaper report that France had opened political contacts with the radical Islamic group Hamas.

Palestinian militants from Hamas take cover during a gun battle with Fatah militants in Gaza City, Tuesday, June 12, 2007. Hamas gunmen captured the headquarters of the Fatah-allied security forces in northern Gaza, seizing control of a key prize in the bloody power struggle between the sides, Hamas and Fatah officials said. (

French-Hamas ties were broken in 2007 when Hamas seized the Gaza Strip

"It is necessary to have contacts," Kouchner told Europe 1 radio on Monday, May 19. "These are not relations, but contacts. We must be able to talk to each other."

Kouchner's statement confirmed a story in Monday's edition of the French daily Le Figaro which reported that the first contact between Paris and Hamas occurred about one month earlier, in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The talks were between a retired high-ranking French diplomat named Yves Aubin de La Messuziere and senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ismail Haniya.

Unofficial mission

La Messuziere, a former French ambassador to Iraq, told Le Figaro that his mission had not been official.

"I told Hamas they must fulfill as much as possible the conditions imposed by the West before official talks with them can begin," he said.

These conditions include renouncing terrorism, recognizing the state of Israel and approving agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

'Equivalent to recognizing Israel'

La Messuziere said he was told that Hamas was prepared to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, "which was equivalent to an indirect recognition of Israel."

"They said they were willing to stop terrorist attacks [on Israel] and, what surprised me, to recognize the legitimacy of [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas," he said.

Until now, relations between France and Hamas had been limited to contacts between their intelligence services. These ended after Hamas seized the Gaza Strip by force in June 2007.

Political contacts ahead?

But two months later, French diplomats stationed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were told that intelligence contacts with the Islamic group could be renewed.

"Today, we are moving on to political contacts," a diplomat stationed in Jerusalem told Le Figaro.

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