Former US President Jimmy Carter continued his tour of the Middle East,Tuesday, against the wishes of the Israeli and US governments, which have strenuously objected to his planned meetings with Hamas leaders.

Carter met Nasser al-Shaer, a senior Hamas leader, and laid a wreath on the grave of Yasser Arafat.

“I’m just trying to understand different opinions and communicate, provide communications between people that won’t communicate with each other,” the former US leader said. “If (the Hamas leadership) have anything constructive to say … then I would bring that to other people.”

Carter is scheduled to meet Khaled Mashaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, in Syria on Friday.


Story Transcript

VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Former US President Jimmy Carter continued his tour of the Middle East on Tuesday. Against the wishes of the Bush administration, Carter is scheduled to meet Khaled Mashal, Hamas’ exiled senior leader, as part of his peace mission.

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JIMMY CARTER, FORMER US PRESIDENT: I’m going to try everything I can to get him to agree to a peaceful resolution of differences both with the Israelis through Gaza and also with Fatah. But I’m not a negotiator. I’m just trying to understand different opinions and communicate, provide communications between people that won’t communicate with each other. You know. So I think that if he does have anything constructive to say, he or the president of Syria, President al-Assad, then I would bring that to other people.

NKWETA: Both the US and Israeli governments have already expressed displeasure at Carter’s overtures to Hamas. Israel’s top leaders have shunned his visit. Carter brokered Israel’s historic peace accord with Egypt in 1979. Today in the West Bank he placed a wreath on the grave of Yasser Arafat. Carter met Hamas leader Nasser Shaer. Shaer served as deputy prime minister and education minister in the Hamas-led government.

NASSER SHAER, LEADING HAMAS MEMBER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Carter has respect and weight all around the world and I hope he’ll have a role and effect on the Palestinian problem.

NKWETA: He said he had requested permission to enter Gaza from Israel, but Israel turned him down.

CARTER: Well, I haven’t been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission, but I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don’t know yet. I was in Sderot yesterday. And I don’t approve of rockets being fired, you know, that might very well hit civilians, and I don’t approve of the killing of innocent people in Gaza, either, by Israeli bombs and missiles. So that’s what, you know, the Carter Center is–our major purpose is to bring peace to people who are in conflict.

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