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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Calls For Hamas to Disarm

BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers on Monday jointly called on Hamas to recognize the state of Israel, renounce violence and disarm, and threatened to cut off crucial financial assistance if the demands were ignored.

Foreign ministers from the 25 EU nations said a new Palestinian government, likely to be formed by Hamas, must be committed to peace with Israel. The Islamic militant faction, which won last week's legislative elections, has refused to disarm or remove from its covenant a clause calling for Israel's destruction.

"The onus is now on Hamas to renounce violence, to accept that the fundamental democratic principle is that matters are pursued by arguments and peacefully and not by violence," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said EU financial aid would be conditional on Hamas meeting those demands.

"Concerning European financial aid, it's important to say that we can only give it if those conditions are accepted," Douste-Blazy said.

While EU officials are barred from contact with Hamas, which the EU considers a terrorist organization, the statement made clear that diplomatic channels would remain open with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is not a member of Hamas.

"We also emphasize the central role of President Abbas to ensure stability in the transitional period," said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

The EU foreign ministers were to maintain funds to the Palestinian Authority for the time being, and were likely to await decisions by Hamas during its formation of a new Palestinian government before deciding on continued aid, diplomats said.

Hamas, meanwhile, called on the international community Monday not to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority, promising the money would only go toward helping the Palestinians and saying a Hamas government was ready to have its spending monitored.

Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings. The group refuses to disarm or recognize Israel, though it has hinted it could reach a long-term truce or other accommodation with the Jewish state.

The ministers added that the EU was calling on members of the Palestinian Legislative Council to support the formation of a government committed to a peaceful solution of the conflict.

Straw said Hamas faced a "big choice" as an organization, as "elections and democracy entail responsibility."

 U.S. ally Saudi Arabia believes Hamas should moderate its stance towards Israel, but its victory could create pressure for more Saudi funding, officials and analysts say, Reuters reported.

Bowing to pressure from the United States, Saudi Arabia has sharply reduced its direct funding for the militant group.

Riyadh officially says it funds only the Palestinian Authority.

A Saudi Cabinet statement issued on Monday said the international community should accept the results and pressure Israel to make peace.