International

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French Foreign Minister Bernard
Kouchner

France Admits Having Low-Level Diplomatic Ties to Hamas

May 21, 2008 09:00 AM
by Anne Szustek
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday that the country maintains “informal contacts” with Hamas, a relationship denounced by Washington.

30-Second Summary

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France defended its contact with the militant group on the basis that it needed to communicate with Hamas to assess the humanitarian and political conditions in the region. Kouchner furthered that other European countries do the same: “I think ... we’re not the only ones to have contacts of this type.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said in response, “We don’t believe it is helpful to the process of bringing peace to the region.”

The United States also came down on former President Jimmy Carter for his unsanctioned visit to the Middle East last month, during which he met with Hamas officials.

Considered a terrorist group by the United States, Hamas is the ruling political faction in Israel’s Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip. Hamas has always been steadfast in its refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and Israeli blockades and closings of border crossings have characterized Israeli–Hamas relations as of late. Last month a breakdown in fuel transport prevented UN relief agencies working in Gaza to deliver food aid.

France’s announcement will not help its reputation as a country full of anti-Semitism. The International Herald Tribune reported in 2004 that Middle Eastern conflict is playing out much closer to Paris: “With the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada against Israel in 2000, anti-Semitic attacks in France skyrocketed.” Shouts of “dirty Jew” are not uncommon in Parisian suburbs. Synagogue administrator Daniel Haik told the Christian Science Monitor, “There is no future for Jews in France.”

The French government has since ramped up legislation and policing against anti-Semitic hate crimes. In 2006 then-Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin reaffirmed France’s commitment to protecting its Jewish citizens.

Headline Link: ‘France Says It’s had Informal Contacts with Hamas’

Background: Recent Hamas developments

Key Players: Hamas

Related Topic: Rise in anti-Semitic acts in France

Reactions: ‘Racism and Anti-Semitism’

Reference: The Gaza Strip

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