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JERUSALEM – The Egyptian government is leading diplomacy with the U.S. and European Union aimed at opening official Western dialogue with Hamas, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The officials said Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egypt is pushing for the continued flow of international aid in the event of a future Hamas-led Palestinian government. Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is expected to do well in any upcoming Palestinian elections.
There is also a drive by Egypt, Turkey and Qatar to wean Hamas entirely off of Iranian money to help rid the Gaza Strip of Shiite Islamic influence, the officials said.
Hamas believes distancing itself more from Iran could prompt a crisis with the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad group in Gaza, added the officials.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas are quietly discussing creating a united political front following future elections, the officials said. However, Islamic Jihad set as a precondition for joining any Hamas coalition that such a future government cannot recognize the existence of Israel.
Regarding U.S. dialogue with Hamas, the State Department has several times iterated a set of preconditions: Hamas first must recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Hamas has several times claimed it talked with U.S. surrogates about eventually establishing open relations.
Sources within Hamas previously disclosed to WND a June 2009 meeting with former U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering. The sources claimed the meeting was about opening future talks with the West.
The gathering allegedly took place in Geneva with two Hamas leaders, Bassem Naim and Mahmoud al-Zahar. Naim is Hamas’ health minister, while al-Zahar is one of the main Hamas leaders in Gaza.
Pickering’s meeting with Hamas in 2009 served as an “important step” to open eventual dialogue between the Islamic group and the Obama administration, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, Ahmed Yousef, told WND that year.
At the time, the State Department told the Jerusalem Post the meeting between Pickering and Hamas was not sanctioned by the White House.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly stressed Pickering acted as a private citizen. Kelly said he was unaware of any prior U.S. governmental coordination with the former diplomat about the meeting with Hamas.
Pickering is currently President Obama’s lead investigator on the Benghazi attacks.
Also in February 2009 there were reports Sen. John Kerry, now a favorite for secretary of state, accepted a letter for President Obama from Hamas leaders in Gaza. Kerry had visited Gaza to tour United Nations camps there.
U.N. relief agency chief Karen Abu Zayd told the BBC the letter had been received by his agency and passed on to an unnamed American official.