Haniyeh - 'We've been shown respect by UK'
Photo: AFP
Haniyeh: Britain has strengthened ties with Hamas
Hamas leader tells The Guardian that top officials in his movement are in close contact with British government. London denies remarks

In an interview with British daily The Guardian, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the British government has expanded its contacts with Hamas in recent weeks.


The British Foreign Office denied Haniyeh's claims and insisted that any contact with Hamas was only of "humanitarian and consular" nature.


Haniyeh said that relations with the UK have improved since the release of kidnapped journalist Alan Johnston.


"I cannot deny that there are now other contacts, other channels of communication with the UK and these involve people of high rank, although I am not personally involved," he said.


Haniyeh added that London is interested in keeping the contacts clandestine.


The United States and most European nations deem Hamas a terror organization and have chosen to maintain an isolation policy regarding the movement until it complies with the demands lay down by the Quartet of recognizing Israel and ending its terror activities.


Haniyeh said he was pleased with the gratefulness of the British government for Hamas' role in the release of Johnston.


"The deputy consul came to thank me personally and the consul general and the foreign minister thanked us in press conferences that were broadcast all over the world. In addition we have received thanks from the Johnston family, British NGOs and the British media. They have shown us a lot of respect," said Haniyeh.


Another achievement, he said, was a motion signed by 20 members of the British parliament to renew contacts with Hamas.


Haniyeh said that Hamas would never recognize Israel, adding that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) did so 15 years ago and that since then there had been no improvement in Palestinian rights.


"In return for recognition, the PLO got the opposite of what they wanted. They got the expansion of the settlements, the confiscation of the Jordan Valley and the wall. The problem is therefore not one of recognition but something else," he said.


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