Swiss FM defends Hamas meeting

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Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey says the militant Palestinian group is "an important player" in the Middle East.

Zurich -- Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey on Sunday defended Switzerland's decision to meet with a Hamas delegation, saying the militant Palestinian group is "an important player" in the Middle East.

"Hamas is an important player in the Middle East conflict that cannot be ignored," said Calmy-Rey in an interview with NZZ am Sonntag, a Sunday newspaper in Zurich.

She added that a research institute conference in Geneva in June -- where Swiss diplomats met a Hamas group that included hard-line leader Mahmud Zahar -- achieved "great progress" regarding an unofficial peace plan.

Israel's foreign ministry voiced anger at the meeting, recalling on Wednesday that Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union, of which Switzerland is not a part.

"By officially receiving a Hamas delegation, Switzerland is not placing itself among those who support moderation," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

The unofficial peace plan, launched in Geneva in 2003 with Swiss support, aims to resolve the Middle East deadlock. Calmy-Rey said a 400-page report on the initiative will be going out to "different players" in the conflict.

AFP / Expatica

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