Following are excerpts from an interview with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, which aired on Russia Today TV on March 15, 2013.
Interviewer: "It is said that the EU plans to remove Hamas from the list of terror organizations. Do you view this as a step toward complete recognition of the legitimacy of the [Hamas] government?"
Mahmoud Abbas: "I do not think that they will acknowledge the legitimacy of the Hamas government. After what happened, and given that Hamas has honored the truce, and has declared that it supports peaceful popular resistance… As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between our policies and those of Hamas. So why are they labeled as terrorists? In my opinion, [the EU] can remove Hamas [from the list], why not?"
Interviewer: "But you do not fire missiles at Israel."
Mahmoud Abbas: "Neither we nor Hamas fire missiles. Since the end of the second Intifada, we have committed ourselves to refrain from using weapons. We say this out in the open. It’s no secret. We don’t hide this under the table. We say loud and clear that we have no intention or desire to violate… or rather, to engage in an armed Intifada with Israel. I say this loud and clear.
"Hamas declared [the same], but then there were skirmishes once or twice. Hopefully, that was the end of it.
"Nobody wants to take in the Palestinians who leave Syria. They came to Syria as refugees, and they should remain in Syria or return to their own country. That’s it. That’s why the situation is difficult. I hope the crisis is alleviated or resolved."
Interviewer: "These [refugees] are unable to return to Palestine…"
Mahmoud Abbas: "Exactly. Now they cannot. Many have already returned. If I told you the numbers, you’d be amazed. From the return of the Palestinian Authority to our homeland in 1994 until 2000, half a million Palestinians returned."