Hamas movement would accept the outcome of a Palestinian referendum on a future peace deal with the Israeli, its Gaza leader said on Wednesday.
Ismail Haniyeh, addressing a rare news conference in the Israeli-blockaded enclave, signalled a softening of Hamas's long-standing position prohibiting the ceding of any part of the Palestinian land
“We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees," Haniyeh said, referring to the year of Middle East war in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.
“Hamas will respect the results of a referendum regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles,” he said, provided it included all Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the diasporas.
The idea of a referendum on a future peace accord with Israel was rejected by some Hamas leaders when it was proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas several months ago.
Negotiations between Abbas and Israel have since faltered over Israel's freeze settlement building in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Haniyeh said Israel was not willing to give the Palestinians a fully sovereign state and he therefore had no hope the fragile U.S. - brokered attempts to revive peacemaking would succeed.
He said his movement was willing to cooperate with Western and European countries "who want to help the Palestinian people regain their rights". The United States and European Union shun Hamas as a “terrorist organisation” and do not recognise its Gaza authority.
“We urge European foreign ministers to revise their position regarding meetings with the elected government” Haniyeh said, adding that contacts were being made with United Nations officials in the Gaza Strip in this regard.
Haniyeh denied Israel's claim to have killed three members of the al Qaeda organisation in Gaza in the past month.
He said a priority of his government in Gaza was to avoid a military escalation with Israel by persuading other militant factions to preserve a de facto ceasefire.