Hamas visit: Israel summons Swedish ambassador

Israel's foreign ministry on Thursday summoned the Swedish ambassador after receiving reports that Stockholm intended to allow members of the governing Palestinian Hamas movement into the country.

During his meeting with Robert Rydberg, foreign ministry director general Ron Prosor “raised concerns over reports that Sweden will give visas to Hamas members to visit their country,” ministry spokesman Mark Regev told AFP.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Association in Stockholm told AFP last week that Salah Bardawil, spokesman for Hamas’s parliamentary faction, would travel to Sweden as the guest of three local Palestinian organisations in mid-May.

Israel has been leading an international thrust to isolate members of Hamas since the group took power in the Palestinian Authority government.

The European Union decided earlier this month to freeze millions of euros in badly-needed financial aid because of Hamas’s refusal to recognise the Jewish state’s right to exist and renounce violence.

“Prosor stressed that giving visas to members of an organisation that the European Union itself regards as a terrorist movement could be perceived as giving them legitimacy,” Regev said.

Prosor also expressed concern about Sweden’s decision not to take in a peacekeeping military exercise because of Israel’s involvement in the exercise.

“When you refuse to accept Israel as a partner in a peacekeeping exercise you can’t expect Israel to accept your involvement in the Middle East peace process,” Regev quoted Prosor as telling the Swedish envoy.