Former US President, Jimmy Carter, met on Friday in Damascus with the Syrian president, Bashar Asad. Carter later on held a separate meeting with Hamas political bureau chief, Khalid Mashal. The visit is part of a regional tour conducted by Carter in an attempt to revive peace talks in the Middle East.
A spokesperson of Carter stated that Asad and Carter discussed the Middle East Peace Process and added that the Syrian Foreign Minister, Waleed Al Moallim, and the Syrian deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Miqdad, attended the talks.
Also, Carter met with the Khalid Mashal of Hamas after concluding the meeting with Asad. The talks also focused on the Middle East peace efforts.
Mashal’s deputy, Mousa Abu Marzouq, and one of Hamas political leaders, Mohammad Nazzal, also attended the meeting.
The Qatar-based AL Jazeera News Channel reported that Carter presented a request by the Israeli Industry and Trage Minster, Ely Yishai, to meet with Hamas officials over prisoner swap talks, and presented an Israeli request for Hamas to stop the firing of homemade shells into adjacent Israeli areas as a good will gesture.
Al Jazeera added that Carter did not receive a response for the two requests.
On Thursday, Carter met in Cairo with Dr. Mahmoud Zahhar of Hamas, and stated that the movement expressed willingness to offer initiatives regarding a truce and the release of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
Israeli media sources showed great interest in the meeting and expressed optimism that they could lead to the release of Shalit in exchange for releasing Palestinian detainees.
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that the meeting between Carter and Mashal lasted for more than four hours.
The meetings between Carter and Hamas officials caused uproar in the US political arena as the country and Israel refuse any talks with Hamas and label it as a terrorist organization.
Khalid Nazzal stated that Hamas is open to the idea of releasing Shalit, but added that this release will not happen without a price as Israel should release hundreds of Palestinian detainees.
Nazzal also said that Carter and Mashal discussed very important issues during their Friday meeting, and added that aides of the two leaders started talks to tackle other details.
It is worth mentioning that officials of the US State department “advised” carter not to meet with Hamas officials during his Middle East tour.
During Carter’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, chose not to meet with him and said that Carter will be meeting with Hamas officials and a meeting with him “could give the impression that Israeli is holding indirect talks with Hamas”.
Israeli analyst Roni Shaked said that Carter’s meeting with Mashal “gives legitimacy to a terrorist organization that wants to destroy Israel”, Isracast agency reported.
It is worth mentioning that Hamas has repeatedly offered extended truce with Israel under conditions that Israeli strops all of its attacks and violations. Regarding the recognition of Israel, Hamas said that it cannot recognize an entity which is still occupying the Palestinian people and carrying daily attacks against them and against their land.