A group of European parliamentarians met in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in what the Hamas leader hailed as a softening in a year-old Western economic embargo of his government.
"There are steady and confident steps towards lifting the siege," Haniyeh said after meeting with about 10 European parliamentarians.
One of the parliamentarians who took part in the meeting, Kyriacos Triantaphyllides from Cyprus, said the EU should deal with the unity government that Islamist Hamas formed six weeks ago with President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah faction.
"We consider this as an opportunity for the road to peace," Triantaphyllides told reporters. "This financial embargo should be lifted."
A European Union spokeswoman said the bloc's policy of shunning the Hamas movement remains unchanged. "The parliament is not the official representative of the European Union in matters of foreign policy," the spokeswoman said.
Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, called the meeting between Haniyeh and the European parliamentarians a "very negative occurrence."
"Giving recognition and legitimacy to an unreformed Hamas will not help peace," he said.
The European Union's aid commissioner said last week that aid from the bloc would continue to bypass the Palestinian government until it recognises Israel, renounces violence and abides by interim peace deals, as demanded by the Quartet of Middle East mediators and Israel.