The European Union is ready to continue aid to the Palestinians but wants to see a Hamas-led government commit itself to seeking peace with Israel, according to a draft text to be studied by EU foreign ministers on Monday.
"The EU stands ready to continue to support Palestinian economic development and democratic state-building," on condition the new Palestinian Legislative Council backs the creation of a government "committed to a peaceful and negotiated solution of the conflict with Israel," one EU diplomat quoted the text as saying.
EU foreign ministers on Monday called on Hamas to clarify its political intentions in an eventual Palestinian government, urging it to embrace peace efforts with Israel.
The 25-member bloc questioned whether it can continue its multimillion euro aid to a government that looks likely to be led by Hamas, a group that remains on an EU blacklist of terrorist groups.
Hamas, meanwhile called on the international community Monday not to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority.
A meeting of EU foreign ministers focused on how the bloc will proceed after Hamas' electoral win last week, said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
'Ball in Hamas' court'
“It is about reaffirming the principles of the EU, such as absence of violence, and a two-state solution,” Plassnik told reporters at the start of the talks.
The EU “cannot do business with a party that partakes in terrorism… that intends to eliminate another country,” Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Hamas faced a “big choice” as an organization, as “elections and democracy entail responsibility.”
“You cannot have violence and democracy at the same time," he said.
Straw said the EU foreign ministers would likely adopt a wait-and-see approach Monday on whether to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority - separate from the humanitarian aid that is funneled through U.N. relief agencies.
“We have an opportunity to pause and to think about it,” he said, adding a decision would come after Hamas formed its government and clarified its position on Israel.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU was facing a difficult decision. "We don't want a Palestinian Authority that collapses. At the same time, we have to reinforce our benchmark.”
“The ball here is clearly in the court of Hamas," she said.