Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Hamas calls for EU talks after court ruling

  • Gaza man points to war damage after an Israeli incursion in 2008/2009 (Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi)

Hamas wants the EU foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini, to come to Gaza to start a new dialogue after the EU court said it should be taken off the terrorist register.

Its deputy foreign minister, Ghazi Hamad, told EUobserver by phone on Wednesday (17 December): “I invite Ms Mogherini to come here to hold many different meetings at all levels”.

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“I hope we can open a new channel for political dialogue, to build bridges, because without the participation of Hamas [in the peace process] there will never be peace or security”.

The EU court in Luxembourg earlier the same day “annulled” on “procedural grounds” an EU decision, dating back to 2003, to impose an asset freeze on the Palestinian militant group.

But it maintained the freeze for at least three months to stop funds being wired in case the EU appeals.

It also gave a withering account of the way that EU countries handled the Gaza listing. “The contested measures are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the Internet”, it said.

EU countries’ diplomats will hold talks in January on how to react.

Mogherini’s office said in a statement the EU “will, in due course, take appropriate remedial action, including any eventual appeal to the ruling”.

It added that “it is a legal ruling of a court, not a political decision taken by the EU governments. The EU continues to uphold the Quartet principles”.

The principles are international benchmarks on Hamas recognition, which include a demand for the group to renounce armed resistance and an informal ban on high-level EU meetings.

One EU source laughed when EUobserver asked what are the chances of a Mogherini visit, noting “it [the verdict] doesn’t reflect any political change, so there won’t be any meeting”.

A second EU source noted that even if the verdict sticks, the ban on high-level talks won’t be lifted until Hamas complies with Quartet conditions.

Vindication?

But for his part, the Hamas minister claimed the ruling as a moral vindication.

“It’s good news, but it comes 12 years too late”, Hamad said.

He described Hamas as a “national liberation movement” which has a “right” to resist Israeli occupation “by all means necessary, which are not against international law”.

Hamas openly targetted Israeli civilians in the last Gaza war in summer, killing two people.

But Hamad noted that Israel killed over 800 women and children despite claims it tries to avoid hurting civilians.

He added that Hamas is ready to accept a two-state solution, but said Palestinians “got nothing” out of the last 22 years of peace talks.

“We are all waiting for the end of the occupation. We’ve accepted an Israeli state in 1967 borders in many documents and media interviews”.

He said EU countries and the US talk to Hamas anyway despite the Quartet ban.

He listed Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, and the UK as the most active.

“We discuss everything with them and they admit, even the US officials admit, that Hamas is not a terrorist organisation, that it’s part of the political equation”.

“It’s time for these underground talks to see the light of day”.

EU and US systems

The court ruling is the latest in a series of defeats for EU sanctions - on Iran and Sri Lanka, among others - and augurs badly for court challenges brought by blacklisted Russian and Ukrainian officials.

EU countries in November launched a review of the evidence underpinning their decisions on all 35 entities on its terrorist register.

By contrast, the US department of treasury has never lost an asset freeze challenge.

But an EU diplomat said: “The EU and US judicial systems are different. They often request that we impose sanctions in various cases, but we have to decline on legal grounds”.

A second EU diplomat noted: “A bad decision on sanctions can ruin people’s businesses, ruin lives. So we should be happy we have a court which looks into these things”.

He added the sanctions defeats stem from reluctance by some EU states to share classified information both with the court and with fellow EU countries.

“We work on the basis of trust. So if one member state files a request, other countries tend to assume that it’s legitimate”.

Hamas appeals for talks with EU diplomats

The Prime Minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has appealed to the EU to take his political and militant group, Hamas, off its terrorist register.

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