EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs debated how to deal with the Hamas movement with regard to the peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Hamas has been accused of obstructing the peace process in the past.

After a meeting in Brussels on Monday, Ursula Blasnek, Austrian Minster of Foreign Affairs was quoted as saying that ‘I could see the necessity now for all sides of taking responsibility and participation.’

She showed indirect support for negotiation with Hamas over the opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, on the condition that Hamas agree to work closely with the Fatah movement, which she described as ‘ moderate’.

Frank Walter Shteinmar, German Minster of Foreign Affairs expressed his skepticism about this proposed policy toward Hamas, saying that ‘Surely, the situation is not becoming easy for President Mahmoud Abbas. On the contrary the space that is available for him for reaching agreements with Israel is more difficult.’

He added, ‘of course we support the Egyptian efforts in curbing violence. But I think that the idea of Hamas’ participation in the peace process that was resumed in Annapolis is a bad one.’

A proposal was presented at the EU Ministers’ meeting on the necessity of having direct negotiations with the Palestinian groups, but they could not agree on a joint vision towards this issue. The EU considers the Hamas movement a ‘terrorist group’.

Other EU Ministers of Foreign affairs support the Egyptian strategy of mediating between the Israeli and Palestinian sides as a compromise solution between Hamas’ participation in and exclusion from any peace negotiations. Jan Aselborn, Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign affairs, said that ‘we have to support Egypt’s efforts to give a small chance for reviving the peace process.’

David Meleband, British Minister of Foreign affairs said that despite the need for the participation of all those involved in the Middle East peace process, priority should be given to the direct negotiations between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.