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Anwar defends engagements with Hamas, says 'purely for diplomatic purposes'

Publish date: Sun, 19 May 2024, 11:37 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has defended his engagements with Hamas, describing them as purely for diplomatic and political purposes.

Anwar, who was recently in Doha, Qatar, had met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and former Hamas chairman Khaled Mashal, and shared this in a Facebook post on May 14.

"I'm not here to defend excesses by anyone; why the hypocrisy of condemning Oct 7 (attacks) by Hamas but being mute on 60 years of atrocities against the Palestinian people?

"I think therefore we need to explain that this engagement is purely diplomatic and political.

"It is of benefit, as the Qataris have done, to secure the release of hostages through contact and engagement. You don't need to agree with everything they do, but I think a principled stance would help."

Anwar said this in an interview on 'Talk To Al Jazeera' that aired earlier this morning.

He was asked to respond to objections by pro-Israeli supporters of leaders engaging with Hamas, which had been categorised in western countries as a "terror organisation" and criticised by international rights groups for its actions and operations towards Israeli civilians.

"Someone has to engage with Hamas, whether you like it or not. It does represent some portion of the Palestinian people in Gaza and you cannot deny that."

When asked whether the United States was pressuring him to change his policy or stance on Israel, Anwar said: "Well probably obliquely. But because we maintain good relations with the US and we continue to do so."

During the interview, Al Jazeera news presenter and interviewer Sami Zeidan highlighted that the US had issued three démarche notes for Malaysia's reluctance to consider Hamas as a terrorist group.

A démarche is a formal diplomatic representation of one government's official position, views or wishes on a subject to an appropriate official in another government or international organisation.

They generally seek to persuade, inform or gather information from a foreign government.

The démarches were received on Oct 13 and 30 last year, while another was sent to Malaysia's ambassador to the US in Washington.

"We have taken a strong position, which I think is very consistent with our independent foreign policy stance in defending human rights, the legitimate aspirations of any country.

"They can inquire, they did raise the issue of my engagement with Hamas, and here in Doha, I met with Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal.

"They should know what transpired. I call upon these organisations including Hamas to try and accommodate and support the resolution, and the call by Arab neighbours to secure peaceful resolution and settlement," he added.

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