Claims from Gaza that EU governments, including Britain, are keen to build backchannel ties with Hamas have been strongly denied in London and treated with scepticism in Israel.
Hamas spokespeople have said that officials from countries including Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain, as well as the UK, have been talking to Hamas. This goes against EU policy, which designates Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
In an interview with the Guardian, Ghazi Hamad, Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, said he had met European government representatives. He added that most had argued that the policy of isolating Hamas should end and dialogue should be opened.
Another Hamas spokesperson, Tahar al-Nounou, said he had spoken to EU figures and further meetings were planned.
Britain, he said, was one of the countries keen to have contacts with Hamas but it was constrained by EU policy.
The UK had tried to open indirect channels through unofficial organisations, he said.
However, an FCO spokesman said that the policy of “no contacts” remains, except in cases involving consular services. “If Hamas is to be treated by the UK and the rest of the international community like other Islamic movements in the region, it must first make credible movements towards the conditions of renouncing violence, recognising Israel and accepting previously signed agreements,” said the spokesman.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that Whitehall’s denials were significant. Hamas’s claims were for domestic consumption, he said.