Hamas leader calls for an end of Israel's occupation

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Hamas leader calls for an end of Israel's occupation

Hamas leader calls for an end of Israel's occupation
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One year after the violent split between Hamas and Fatah, talks between the two sides are underway. Mohamed Abdel Azim travelled to Damascus to question Hamas’ exiled leader Khaled Meshaal on a range of issues, including links with other countries and the role of the European Union in the region. An exclusive Euronews interview with Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal.

Euronews: “Do you agree with the idea of freeing Israeli soldiers and talking to Fatah?”

Khaled Meshaal: “Concerning the soldier Gelad Shalit, as you know it is (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert who prevents negotiations. It is Olmert and his entourage who keep putting up road blocks. He does not respond to our demands. We have agreed to the Egyptian mediation plan and when we get into naming prisoners to be released, Israel refuses to talk. When Israel accepts our demands, we will free the Israeli soldiers we have as soon as we can. We have no interest in keeping them.”

Euronews: “How true is it that secret contacts exist between Israel and Hamas?”

Khaled Meshaal: “We do not have secret contacts and we do not have contacts with Israel.”

Euronews: “Is it imaginable that direct or indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel can take place in the current circumstances?”

Khaled Meshaal: “The conflict with Israel has to be managed in a global way, and when Israel becomes mature and accepts the rights of the Palestinians, then we will decide to adapt our position.”

Euronews: “What of the negotiations already initiated between Mahamoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert?”

Khaled Meshaal: “Olmert issues vetoes on the 1967 borders, on Jerusalem, on the demolition of the occupied settlements and on our right of return. What is the value in negotiating in the face of all these red lines?”

Euronews: “The value being the willingness to create a Palestinian state?”

Khaled Meshaal: “You saw during (President) Bush’s recent visit to the region and his speech at the Knesset. He slapped the region and aligned himself with Israel. Although Olmert negotiates with Abbas, it is to distance himself from internal problems and make Israel’s public image more attractive.”

Euronews: “Is it possible in the future that Hamas could entertain negotiations with Israel?”

Khaled Meshaal: “Israel has to announce clearly that it accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem without settlements, and the right of refugees to return. Without this, we will never agree.”

Euronews: “In that case, would you be ready to recognise Israel?”

Khaled Meshaal: “No, the question of recognition is out. I have already said we would be able to sign a truce. There are other formulas, but we have already stated that recognition is not among them.”

Euronews: “You could also sign a negotiation treaty or an agreement with Israel?”

Khaled Meshaal: “Listen, there have been signed agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis since Oslo, which have proved useless. The question is this: will Palestinians be given their rights? At this time, we can neither see a different Israeli nor American position on the horizon. There is no international willingness to impose a satisfactory solution for the Palestinian people.”

Euronews: “Ehud Olmert has said Jerusalem will always remain under Israeli sovereignty. What do you think about this statement?”

Khaled Meshaal: “The nature of Israel’s position is proof that there is no possible arrangement on the horizon because of Israel’s alignment with the US. Olmert can say what he wants, Jerusalem was and still is Palestinian and Arab.”

Euronews: “During his campaign Obama said Jerusalem must stay the capital of Israel.”

Khaled Meshaal: “We refute and condemn these kind of statements because they are insulting. We do not expect much from an American administration, whether it is Democrat or Republican. We are not counting on that. We’re focusing on our rights.”

Euronews: “Hamas is accused of having links with Tehran. Is that right?”

Khaled Meshaal: “We have links with Tehran and we also have relations with Arab countries, as well as good relations with certain European countries. What is the problem? They are political relations and we rely on nobody.”

Euronews: “It is said there is material and military support from Tehran for Hamas.”

Khaled Meshaal: “There is no military support. There is, however, financial support to the Hanyeh government from certain Arab countries. What is the problem? It is the Palestinian peoples’ right.”

Euronews: “Is it because there are feaers of an axis between Tehran, Gaza and Hezbollah in the region?”

Khaled Meshaal: “There is no axis but there is an American desire to classify the world as to how it wishes it to be seen. According to its lying criteria, America classes states as either modern or extremist. We have to refute this American vision.”

Euronews: “In Europe, there are worries of the links between Iran and the use of violence as a political means.”

Khaled Meshaal: “The usage of violence as a means? We are a people under occupation. Half of our people have been under occupation for 60 years, the other half are dispersed all over the world. Is it not a people’s right to defend itself? It is the least we can do. It is a duty and an honour.”

Euronews: “What do you expect, and what do say to Europe on this point?”

Khaled Meshaal: “There is no solution in this region. The Europeans need to know that there is no solution by hiding behind the Americans’ impossible conditions. The solution is to give Palestinians their rights and put an end to the Israeli occupation. At the moment, there is an historic chance. Arabs and Palestinians accept the creation of a state on the 1967 borders. I call Europe to drive the international community in place of the failing American administration in concert with Russia, China and others. In order to return the rights of Palestinians and end the Israeli occupation.”

Euronews: “The Mediterranean Union coincides with the French presidency of the European Union. What do you expect from this?”

Khaled Meshaal: “Is there a new politics that Europe can offer? That is the point. What if Europe continues to close its ears and remain inept? As long as the international community and Europe retreat, there will be no positive outcome. The Arab and Muslim world expects Europe to offer something more.”

Euronews: “Mr Khaled Meshaal, President of Hamas, thank you very much for answering our questions.”