Carter Calls for Engaging Hamas
Jimmy Carter- former US president- met Khaled Meshal; head of Hamas political bureau, at one of Hamas offices in Damascus. Both Mosa Abu-Marzouq, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, and Mohamed Nezal, leading figure of Hamas also met with Carter. Washington stressed that Carter’s tour in the region to settle the disputes between Israel and Palestinians is in his own capacity.
Abu-Marzouq told France Press Agency before Carter- Meshal meeting that the meeting will focus on three basic topics: Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit kidnaped by Hamas, truce in Gaza, and ending the Israeli siege on Gaza.
In his statement to Qatar- based al-Jazeerah channel, Mohamed Nezal stated “Hamas” policy is against meeting Israeli officials; Hamas may indirectly discuss Shalit”s issue through other channels and mediations”.
“Hamas appreciates what Carter wrote about the racism of Israel whether relating to the Israeli separation wall or racial discrimination policy” he added denoting a previous article written by Carter, in which he compared the Israeli occupation of Palestine and previous racist discrimination in South Africa.
On Thursday, Carter met Hamas delegation after being denied access by Israel to visit Gaza; the delegation included Mahmoud al-Zahhar, Sa`eed Siyaam, and other four Hamas leaders.
Al-Zahhar announced that Hamas promised Carter to respond to the humane initiatives proposed by Carter regarding the release of Gilad Shalit and truce.
Ali Badwan; Palestinian political commentator, Carter-Hamas meeting may pull down exclusion policy imposed by US on Hamas that rejects recognition of Israel, abandoning armed resistance, and recognition of interim peace treaties between Palestine and Israel.
He added to Reuters that Carter is a respectable figure; his visit may encourage other in the west to open new channels with Hamas, because Fath is not the only decision maker.
U.S. President George W. Bush reacted to Carter’s visit saying that he doesn’t support Carter’s mission in the Middle East, because it doesn’t help peace efforts. Carter was criticized y Bush”s administration which considers Hamas a terrorist organization.
On the other hand, President Carter hoped that his efforts will help to ease communication between Palestinians and Israelis and reinforce the American understanding of the conflict
Carter was the mediator of the first peace treaty between Egypt and Israel while in office- said that his meeting with Hamas will not undermine Abbas’s efforts to negotiate an agreement and Hamas will accept an agreement if the Palestinians support it in a free vote.
He called for including Hamas- that won in recent Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006- in any peace arrangements. In his statements in Cairo on Thursday, he described the Israeli siege on Gaza as barbaric and said that American attempts to exclude Hamas have counter-results.
After meeting Hamas leaders of Gaza, Carter delivered a speech at the American University in Cairo in which he said that the Palestinians die of hunger and obtain calories less than those living in the poorest African territories.
He was supposed to be accompanied by a group of diplomats; including former secretary general of the UN, Kofi Anan and other former officials; they all abstained due to US pressures, however Carter went on the tour alone.