The minister also reiterated the British government's policy that states Hamas must abide by the three prerequisites set by the international community: Renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and abiding by previously signed agreements with Israel. However, the tone of his statements was considerably milder.
"Hamas now leads the government and we would like to have normal relations with them as we have had with previous governments," he said. "This requires movement by them as well as by us."
Straw: Hamas doesn't have to change charter
Referring to a Hamas recognition of Israel, Straw stressed he did not expect a formal declaration by the group's leaders. According to Straw, Hamas must accept Israel's existence as a fact, but a change in the organization's charter that calls for Israel's destruction is not a necessary condition for negotiations between the two sides.
The British minister added that following the suspension of aid to the PA from the West, and the halting of fund transfer by Israel, Britain must look for ways to resume financial assistance to the Hamas-led government. Straw suggested that Britain renew fund transfer to the Palestinians, and that international monitors will work to oversee the financial transactions and see to it that the money is not used by terrorists.
Straw's words represent a substantial moderation in the West's stance toward Hamas. In the beginning of the month, the European foreign ministers convened to approve freezing aid to the PA.
Referring to the deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv Monday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday: "I hope very much that Hamas realize that those who kill innocent people in this way, by this type of attack that happened in Tel Aviv, are wicked and irresponsible, but more than that, that they do absolutely nothing to further the process of peace in the Middle East or the two-state solution that we all want to see."
The British embassy in Israel said in a statement: "There is no change in our policy toward Hamas. We, along with the rest of the international community, believe that Hamas must meet the demands as laid down by the Quartet on January 30th."