EU calls Hamas to renounce violence

European Union foreign ministers on Monday asked Hamas to renounce violence and recognize the right of Israel to exist. "We have urged Hamas and all other factions to renounce violence, to recognize Israel's right to exist, and to disarm," Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the EU presidency, told reporters.

The foreign ministers, in a meeting, asked the newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council to "support the formation of a government that is committed to a peaceful and negotiated solution of the conflict with Israel, based on existing agreements and onthe road map, as well as on the rule of law, reform and sound fiscal management."

On this base, said Plassnik, the EU is ready to support Palestine's economic development. Plassnik said the foreign ministers emphasized the "central role" of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and expressed their full support for Abbas' determination to pursue a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel.

The landslide victory of Hamas in Palestinian parliamentary elections last week caught the EU by surprise. With Hamas still on its list of terrorist organizations, the EU has little room for manoeuvre. In theory, the EU is prohibited from any official contacts with the group.

Obviously in a bid to quell fears that the EU would cut its financial aid to Palestine, EU Commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said the majority of the EU's aid does notpass through the hands of the Palestinian Authority. Of the 280 millions euros (340 million U.S. dollars) provided by the European Commission last year, three quarters have been spent through partners, contractors, non-governmental organizations, she said. Only one quarter was allocated to fund the PA, of which, only half has been paid, she said. No plan for further payment to the PA is in place, she said, reports Xinhua. I.L.

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