CAIRO (Reuters) - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal urged the United States and the European Union on Sunday to support a reconciliation deal that ended a four-year rift with Fatah, saying the accord was the Palestinian people’s choice.
Meshaal told Reuters in an interview that the issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel could only be addressed after an independent state was set up in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“The international position, especially that of the Europeans and the Americans, is still unclear but we hope they respect our will and decision,” Meshaal said.
“This is an internal Palestinian issue that no one should delay or place conditions on.”
The Damascus-based Meshaal was in Cairo to attend a ceremony hosted by Egypt that formally ended four years of strife between the Islamist Hamas and its more secular rival Fatah, whose leader is Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel has condemned the Egyptian-brokered accord because of the inclusion of Hamas, whose founding charter calls for the Jewish state’s destruction, and as a protest has blocked the transfer of $105 million in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
The United States has voiced reservations, saying it was important that the Palestinians ensure implementation of the deal in a way that advances the prospects of peace. Israel has said the accord advances the agenda of terrorism, not peace.
The deal calls for forming an interim government to run the West Bank, where Fatah is based, and the Hamas-led Gaza Strip, and prepare for long-overdue parliamentary and presidential elections within a year.
The United States and the European Union have boycotted Hamas, predicating any ties on Hamas first recognising Israel, renouncing violence and accepting interim peace deals signed by Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization with Israel.
“We are waiting for action from the Europeans and the Americans that would support our position and to not interfere,” Meshaal said.
Palestinians regard U.S. and EU support as crucial for their independence cause due to their unparalleled geopolitical and financial clout. They provide a significant share of the Palestinian Authority’s funding.
Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where the Palestinians seek statehood, in 1967, refuses to deal with Hamas, calling it a terrorist group.
Meshaal said the international community must pressure Israel to recognize the Palestinians, not the other way around.
“Israel needs pressure. It is an occupier that would not get out by conviction or through dialogue,” Meshaal said, adding that Egypt was only able to enter into peace talks with the Jewish state after the 1973 Middle East war.
“What is needed today ... is to have resistance in all forms, armed and public ones,” he said adding that he intends to try to persuade Fatah to adopt his approach to force Israel to end its occupation. “Any occupier in the world never retreats voluntarily ... It only retreats under pressure and force.”
Asked if Hamas was ready to recognize Israel as part of a permanent peace deal, Meshaal said the Palestinian people should have their own independent state first.
“First allow the Palestinian people to live on their lands freely ... to establish their independent state ... then ask the Palestinian people, its government and leaders about their position toward Israel,” he said.
Editing by Sami Aboudi and Mark Heinrich
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