A delegation from the Council of Elders has met with the leadership of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Damascus. The delegation, headed by the former President of the Irish Republic, Mary Robinson, and former US President Jimmy Carter, met with Khalid Mishaal after a brief visit to the Gaza Strip where they met with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and visited several localities in the beleaguered territory.
Following today's meeting in the Syrian capital, the Head of External Relations for Hamas, Usama Hamdan, said that the movement welcomed the efforts of the Council and regarded the visit as "an important step". Mr. Hamdan confirmed that the parties held intense discussions on several issues, including Palestinian national reconciliation, the peace negotiations and the blockade of Gaza.
According to Mr. Hamdan, Hamas is committed to reconciliation and calls for an end to interference by external bodies. Despite the postponement of a meeting scheduled for today between Fatah and Hamas in Damascus, Mr. Hamdan confirmed that efforts are being made to fix a new date.
With regards to the negotiations, the Hamas representative said that they made it clear to the Elders delegation that the Arabs had given the negotiations many opportunities and made many concessions but the problem lies with Israeli intransigence. What is required at this stage, he said, is to apply as much pressure as possible on the Israeli occupation authorities and recognize the rights of the Palestinian and Arab people, instead of putting pressure to find a solution on the victims of the illegal occupation.
"We also conveyed to the Elders delegation that there is an urgent need to end the siege of Gaza," said Mr. Hamdan. Hamas, he added, welcomed the statements made by the delegation during their visit to the territory.
The Hamas leadership raised the issue of the Palestinians parliamentarians who are still being threatened by Israel with expulsion from Jerusalem and who are now in their 113th day seeking sanctuary in the compound of the International Red Cross in the holy city.
Mr. Hamdan claimed that the Elders visit "reflects a genuine recognition by the world's political leaders and elite of the role and status of the Palestinian resistance, at the forefront of which is Hamas."