Days after Quartet envoy Tony Blair demanded that Hamas clarify whether it’s an Islamist group or if it is interested in peace, a senior Hamas official on Wednesday accused Blair of imposing “a new set of preconditions before Gaza could be rebuilt.”
Blair, who visited Gaza on Sunday, called on Hamas to clarify whether it is part of a "broader Islamist movement with regional designs" or if it would accept a long-term peace alongside Israel.
In a statement posted on Facebook and quoted by the Ma’an news agency, Deputy Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk said that Blair's remarks were completely different from what he used to propose when he served as British prime minister.
"In January 2009, Blair admitted he was mistaken and explained then that Hamas was a major player in the conflict and in the peace process. He didn't then talk about the Quartet’s three preconditions of recognition of Israel, renouncing violence and accepting what the Palestinians have already signed, but rather he spoke of appropriate preconditions," he wrote.
Blair is now talking about five new preconditions to be imposed on Hamas before Gaza reconstruction and improvement to the living conditions, Abu Marzouk charged.
"He is now using the tragedy inflicted on Gaza by the Zionist enemy who demolished Gaza houses leaving children in the open," he claimed.
Blair's five new preconditions, said Abu Marzouk, include Palestinian reconciliation, a Palestinian political program based on a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders, and confirmation that Hamas is a Palestinian movement seeking to achieve Palestinian goals rather than being part of an Islamic movement with regional dimensions.
He also said that Blair wants approval that the two-state solution is a final solution to the conflict and a reassuring message to Egypt that Hamas won't be a base for "terrorism in Sinai" and that it would hold talks with the Egyptian government to "prevent terrorism."
In a response to Blair’s so-called preconditions, Abu Marzouk reiterated that Hamas “is a Palestinian, Arab and Islamic resistance movement” whose goals are to achieve the “Palestinian people's aspirations of return, freedom and liberation”.
Hamas’s top priorities "at this stage" are reconciliation, ending the inter-Palestinian dispute and achieving unity among all the Palestinian Arabs wherever they live,” he added, according to Ma’an.
Abu Marzouk also stated that Hamas looks forward to operating within a national Palestinian consensus whose goals are “withdrawal of Israeli occupation from the West Bank and Jerusalem and establishment of an independent Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem.”
With regards to the “two-state solution”, he confirmed that Hamas "won't agree to sign" an agreement that "confiscates the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people."
Abu Marzouk finally reiterated that it was indisputable that Hamas cared about Egypt's security and stability and would never intervene in Egyptian internal affairs.
The Quartet, which is made up of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia, has demanded that Hamas renounce violence against Israel and recognize past agreements signed with the Jewish state, whose existence it does not accept.
The Quartet was set up in Madrid in 2002 as part of efforts to find a comprehensive settlement to the conflict between Israel and the PA. In 2011 the group suggested a timetable which it said would bring forth a peace agreement by the end of 2012, one of several initiatives proposed by the Quartet which have failed.
The group has been mostly silent over the past year as it let U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry try to broker a deal between the sides. Kerry’s efforts ultimately failed when the PA torpedoed talks by requesting to join 15 international agencies in breach of the conditions of the negotiations.
Last week, the Quartet called for a “speedy resumption” of Israeli-PA peace talks, urging both sides to avoid any action that could undermine efforts to settle the conflict.