France, Germany, Italy Back EU Sanctions Scheme to Target Hamas

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – France, Germany and Italy called for the European Union to set up a special sanctions scheme to target Hamas as EU foreign ministers met on Monday to consider possible next steps in response to the Middle East crisis.

Among the possible measures up for discussion at the meeting are a crackdown on Hamas’s finances.

In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the foreign ministers of the bloc’s three biggest countries said it was important the EU take “all necessary measures against the terrorist group Hamas and its supporters.”

“This implies a stronger European commitment both to combating Hamas’s infrastructure and financial support, and to isolating and delegitimizing Hamas internationally, which in no way represents the Palestinians or their legitimate aspirations,” said the letter, seen by Reuters.

Hamas is already listed by the European Union as a terrorist organization, meaning any funds or assets that it has in the EU should be frozen.

It was not immediately clear from the brief letter the details of how sanctions would be broadened or tightened. If EU members agreed in principle, the next step would be for experts to draw up the legal framework to figure out which individuals or entities would be targeted.

The EU said on Friday it had added Mohammed Deif, commander general of the military wing of Hamas, and his deputy, Marwan Issa, to its list of terrorists under sanction. It is also considering adding Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar to the list, according to diplomats.

The letter said a separate sanctions scheme targeting Hamas would send a “strong political message” about the EU’s commitment against Hamas.

Such a scheme was one of a number of options outlined in a discussion paper from the EU’s diplomatic service.

France, Germany and Italy have already been pushing such a scheme behind the scenes but the letter from France’s Catherine Colonna, Germany’s Annalena Baerbock and Italy’s Antonio Tajani increases pressure on other EU countries to back it.

Diplomats said it would be hard to achieve the unanimity necessary for EU-wide bans, as countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary are staunch allies of Israel.

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