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Hamas chief meets Swiss envoy in Cairo

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11:17 CET+01:00

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal met the Swiss Middle East envoy in Cairo late on Wednesday as part of efforts to normalise relations with European governments, sources in the Islamist movement told AFP.

A Hamas official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Meshaal and Jean-Daniel Ruch, whose country is not part of the European Union, discussed the possibility of relations between Europe and the Islamist group which rules Gaza.

The talks "addressed the political situation in light of the Arab Spring and the Palestinian political situation," he said on Thursday, adding that the meeting was attended by several other top Hamas leaders.

The Hamas delegation stressed "the importance of Europe being open to the movement and the need to end the bias against one Palestinian side in favour of the other," an apparent reference to its rival Palestinian movement Fatah.

Despite Hamas's sweeping 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election victory, and its efforts to reconcile with Fatah, the group remains blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the European Union, with EU government officials barred from engaging in normal relations with the group.

Swiss diplomats have been engaged in a dialogue with Hamas as part their contacts with political movements in the region.

Mushir al-Masri, head of foreign relations for Hamas who is currently in Switzerland for a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said Wednesday's meeting was part of a broader process.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from Switzerland, he said the talks "come within the framework of the Hamas political bureau's contacts with some European parties and its policy of openness towards the Europeans."

"We stressed during all our meetings in Switzerland the need for openness and positive engagement between Switzerland and the European countries, and the Hamas movement, because Hamas is open to Europe," Masri added.

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