The western diplomatic boycott of the Palestinian Authority government was eased on Monday in a meeting between Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the Norwegian deputy foreign minister, Raymond Johansen, in Gaza.
Norway announced Saturday that it recognizes the Palestinian unity government and plans to hold diplomatic ties with it.
Johansen and Haniyeh discussed the relations between Norway and the Palestinian Authority and ways to lift the embargo that has been imposed on the Palestinians for the past year.
The Norwegian envoy also met with Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, and expressed his hope that the unity government would accept the Quartet's demands, make efforts to end violence against Israel and promote the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Monday's meeting marks the first time since Hamas' rise to power in January 2006 that an official representative of a western country has visited the PA.
Meanwhile, a British envoy said that the UK also planned to mull the possibility of renewing contacts with the Palestinian government. Jon Wilks, a British Foreign Office spokesman who is currently in Israel, told Ynet that Britain was committed to restarting the peace process in the region.
Wilks said that although the unity government's platform does not comply with the Quartet's demands, Britain recognized in it "important points and elements" and would continue to monitor the government's actions.
Wilks estimated that in the initial stage, contacts would be held with non-Hamas ministers only.
'Recognize Hamas? Visit Shalit'Menahwile, in a rare display of tongue-in-cheek diplomacy MK Israel Hason (Israel Our Home) sent a personal letter to Norwegian ambassador to Israel Jakken Biorn Lian following Oslo's decision to recognize the new Palestinian coalition government.
In the letter Hason addressed Norway's involvement in the Oslo accords and suggested that now that Norway has recognized Hamas, Norwegian officials will surely be allowed to visit kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
"On 25 June 2006, the soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in a terrorist assault carried out by Hamas. Since that time not a single international organization has been allowed to visit him… the first step the new Palestinian government should take is to transfer the kidnapped soldier into their custody and Norway's representatives, who now have full open relations with the Palestinian Authority, will of course be permitted to visit Gilad Shalit in captivity."
The Norwegian embassy confirmed it received the letter from MK Hason.