Thursday, January 29, 2009
PARIS/OCCUPIED-AL-QUDS: Hamas would recognise Israel if it withdraws to its pre-1967 borders, a French writer said this week after meeting the exiled leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Khaled Meshaal.
“He told me that Hamas was prepared to recognise Israel on the lines of June 4, 1967. He told me so several times,” Marek Halter told AFP on Monday.
The date refers to Palestinian demands for an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 war.
Halter’s meeting with Meshaal took place in Damascus last month, on the eve of Israel’s 22-day offensive, which left more than 1,330 Palestinians dead, according to Gaza medics, and vast swathes of the territory in ruins.
The writer said he informed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Meshaal’s comments at the start of the Gaza conflict, which ended January 18 as Israel and Hamas declared unilateral ceasefires.
“Now they will have to decide,” whether to talk to Hamas, said Halter, who said Meshaal had newly decided to support peace negotiations with Israel, for fear of “becoming irrelevant”.
Israel, Washington and the European Union all refuse to recognise Hamas’ democratically elected government, branding it a terrorist organisation.
Meshaal called in a speech aired on Arab satellite televisions last week for Western powers to lift a ban on contacts with his movement.
Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair has said the diplomatic Quartet—Europe, Russia, the United States and United Nations—would deal with Hamas if it accepts a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, France on Wednesday summoned Israel’s ambassador after Israeli troops fired warning shots as European diplomats were blocked at a Gaza border crossing.
Israeli troops halted a diplomatic convoy carrying France’s consul general Alain Remy at the Erez crossing on Tuesday and held it for six hours as it left the Gaza Strip and returned to Jerusalem, the foreign ministry said.
“The convoy, which included other European diplomats, was subject to two warning shots from Israeli soldiers,” ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier told reporters.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner summoned Israeli Ambassador Daniel Shek “to protest this unacceptable incident and demand an explanation,” he said.
In a related development, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell said on Wednesday it was critical to consolidate a ceasefire in Gaza by ending hostilities, opening borders and ending smuggling into the enclave.
“The prime minister and I discussed the critical importance to consolidate the ceasefire including a cessation of hostilities, an end to smuggling and reopening of the crossings based on 2005 agreements,” Mitchell told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
On his maiden trip to the region since being appointed by new US President Barack Obama, Mitchell said:
“The US will sustain an active commitment to reaching the goal of the two states living side by side in peace and security.” And he reiterated that Washington “is committed to Israel’s security and to its right to defend itself.”
His trip comes more than a week after the end of Israel’s devastating war on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, according to local medics.
A senior Israeli official said Olmert told Mitchell that the government would observe a ceasefire around the Hamas stronghold only if there was a “total calm and an end to rocket fire and terror activities and the arms smuggling.”