U.S. cuts all contact with Hamas-led PA
American administration advises missions in Israel, worldwide to suspend all contact with government led by terror group; however, State Department says diplomats may remain in contact with PA Chairman Abbas, officials directly under PA. Former President Clinton: I would be prepared to shake hands with Hamas
However, the administration will maintain contact with the Palestinian Authority's representative in Washington, Afief Safieh, because "he does not report to the foreign ministry," deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.
The new Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, Mahmud Zahar, is a Hamas hard-liner.
"We've advised our mission in Jerusalem, as well as other missions around the world that ... there should be no contact between U.S. government officials and PA (Palestinian Authority) officials who are under the authority of the prime minister or any other minister in the Hamas-led government. This includes working-level officials in those ministries," said Ereli.
"If they're working in a Hamas-led ministry, no matter what their affiliation is, we're not going to have contact with them," he said.
Ereli, however, said U.S. diplomats can remain in contact with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and "the officials directly under the Palestinian Authority."
"We will work with individuals and organizations who are not affiliated with Hamas," he said. "There are a lot of people we can speak to now."
Clinton: I would support dealing with Hamas
Ereli noted that the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, David Welch, who is now in the region, had met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and was expected to meet with Abbas in the coming days.
The new instructions had been expected since Washington considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and rules forbid U.S. officials entering in contact with members of a terrorist group.
Meanwhile, former U.S. president Bill Clinton told BBC television that he would be prepared to support dealing with Hamas if they agreed to negotiate and turn their backs on terrorism.
Asked if he would shake hands with Hamas in the name of negotiation as he did with Arafat in 1993, Clinton said: "If they made the same assurances that Arafat did. He had made private assurances, and he made public assurances, that he did not support terror any more and would try to restrain it."
"So if Hamas would say, suppose they say, okay, look, we can't change our theory, we can't change our document, we can't change our history, but we're in government now and the policy of the Palestinian government is no to terror and yes to negotiations. As long as we're in government, we'll honor that policy. If they did that, I would support dealing with them," Clinton said.