Haniyeh to Make First Europe Visit

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is planning to visit Switzerland next month on his first official trip to Europe.

Haniyeh to Make First Europe Visit

Amid warnings of the explosive situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is planning to visit Switzerland next month on his first official trip to Europe.

"Prime minister Ismail Haniyeh will travel to Switzerland in May," a foreign ministry source told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"This visit follows an agreement between Palestinian foreign minister Ziad Abu Amr and the Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey," the source said.

The exact date of Haniyeh's visit has not yet been decided.

Haniyeh's visit to Switzerland will be his first to Europe since Hamas won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The EU and US, the biggest donors to the Palestinians, have imposed a financial and political boycott on the Palestinian since Hamas came to power in March 2006.

Last year, Switzerland, which is not an EU member, said the EU had been too hasty in deciding to suspend aid to the Palestinian government.

Since the formation of the unity government, European countries have only met with non-Hamas members.

Norwegian deputy foreign minister Raymand Johansen is the only Western official to have met Haniyeh or any other Hamas minister.

Johansen's talks with Haniya led Israel to cancel a meeting with the Norwegian diplomat. Norway is not an EU member.

Israel has in the past prevented members of the Hamas-led government from leaving the occupied West Bank to travel abroad.

Haniyeh resides in the Gaza Strip which has a border with Egypt.


Haniyeh's visit comes amid stern warnings that the Western blockade was pushing the Palestinians "on the verge of exploding".

"The Palestinian people will not be patient under this pressure and they have several options before them if need be," AFP quoted Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal as telling reporters in Cairo.

"The Palestinian unity government has been in place for almost two months and the sanctions remain the main issue for the Palestinians, after they had large hopes following the formation of the government."

The formation of the unity government has revived hopes among the Palestinians that the Western siege will come to an end.

But this has not been enough for the West to lift its blockade on the Palestinians.

Meshaal urged the Arabs and Muslims to stand up and be counted.

"The first step to lift the sanctions must be an Arab one," he said.

International relief agency Oxfam on Friday, April 13, called for an immediate resumption of Western aid to the Palestinians, warning that the year-long boycott has sent the Palestinians deeper into poverty.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas this week wound up a European tour aimed at convincing the EU to lift its boycott on the Palestinians.

On Friday Meshaal and Abbas held rare talks in Cairo, their first meeting since their first meeting in the holy Saudi city of Makkah in February.

The two discussed the internal situation, the fragile ceasefire and the prisoner exchange.

They stressed abidance by the Makkah agreement and "exert all efforts to stabilize the cease fire and expand it to include the West bank."

Last Mod: 29 Nisan 2007, 09:53
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