Hamas sends delegation to Egypt

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

LISA: In the meantime, Hamas leaders today, aside from issuing defiant statements, announced that they're sending a delegation to Egypt for talks. The BBC's Magdi Abdelhadi is in Cairo, Egypt. Remind us if you will what Egypt's interest is in this conflict.

MAGDI: Egypt is of course very interested because Gaza is on Egypt's doorstep. Gaza has borders only with Egypt and Israel. And instability and violence in Gaza can spill over to Egypt. That is one reason also the Egyptians generally are very interested in what happens in Gaza. They are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. They speak the same language, the same religion and they're ? you know, they feel strongly about any suffering that the Palestinians either in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip experience.

LISA: So if the Egyptian government has this sense of sympathy with Palestinians, why doesn't it have sympathy with Hamas?

MAGDI: Well, Hamas is a radical organization that has not signed up yet to the basic tenants of the principles of peace that all our governments have more or less signed up to. And because of Hamas's rejection of that process, it has been the rebel and the outsider that no one wants to deal with. For the Egyptian, it's a particularly sensitive issue because the Hamas ideology is the ideology of the outlaw, an opposition group in Egypt and Muslim brotherhood.

LISA: So the Egyptian government has no affinity for Hamas, but it's talking to Hamas. Do we know what they're talking about and do we know what could be accomplished through these talks?

MAGDI: Why Egyptians are talking to Hamas because Israelis aren't talking to Hamas, either. So someone has to play that role.

LISA: But ? by the way, Magdi, do we know that for sure, that the Israeli government and Hamas aren't talking beneath the --

MAGDI: Not officially. There may have been low level contacts, but not on a senior level. So the Israelis need a mediator to be able to talk to Hamas, and Egyptians were the ones who played that role. And will most likely continue to play that role for some time to come.

LISA: As we know, there are elections in Israel coming up in February. Also, Israelis may have an eye on the calendar right now, with 15 days until George Bush leaves office. I wonder if in Egypt, to the extent that you can detect, possibly even in the Palestinian territories, if there's an expectation that Barack Obama will change the playing field and will possibly reign in Israel, if that's the expectation, at least?

MAGDI: I don't think among the sort of the politically lower class that there's the expectation that there would be a complete U-turn on American foreign policy in the region. The best they can hope for, you know, George Bush was not popular at all in the middle east, so they're quite relieved generally to see the back of him. They hope that Obama is someone that they will be able to do business with and he would probably listen, but will he make a complete U-turn and put more pressure and be more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause? I think only very naive people, people who really don't know how American foreign policy operates. So that expectation is, if it exists, and I'm sure it does exist, but only not with the politically aware and astute people. They know that American foreign policy doesn't simply change 100 percent like that.

LISA: The BBC's Magdi Abdelhadi in Cairo, Egypt, where the Palestinian group Hamas, which has control of Egypt, is sending a delegation for talks. Thank you very much, Magdi.

MAGDI: Thank you.