France reluctant to back EU action against Hamas

France was facing increasing pressure on 27 June to put the political wing of the hardline Palestinian group Hamas on a list of banned “terrorist” groups.

"We bow to no one in our rejection of terrorism", said a spokeswoman for EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten on 26 June after US President George Bush urged the EU to starve the Palestinian group Hamas of money and support. The Commission continues to insist that it regards the fight against terrorism as an absolute priority. However, responding to American claims voiced at the 25 June EU-US summit in Washington that Hamas has been drawing on European funds, an EU spokesman said "no such funding exists or has ever existed".

The hardline group Hamas' armed wing, which routinely claims responsibility for suicide bomb attacks, is on the EU's blacklist. However, Hamas' political wing, which also raises funds for the group, is not. The US makes no such distinction. Britain stands behind the US' position, while France believes that measures aimed at sidelining Hamas' political wing could run counter to ongoing efforts to revive the Middle East peace process. Hamas has rejected the "

road map" for peace in the region. An EU decision on cutting off funding to Hamas' political wing would require unanimity, and thus a French "non" is enough to block EU action.

 

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