Despite condemning former US president Jimmy Carter’s meetings with Hamas officials this week, a high-ranking member of Israel’s government asked Carter to arrange a meeting with Hamas to discuss a prisoner exchange. Both the US and Israeli governments have officially distanced themselves from Carter’s visit.
VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Former US President Jimmy Carter, brushing off US and Israeli criticism, went to Syria on Friday to meet the exiled senior leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal. Carter met Syrian President Bashar Assad shortly after he arrived in Damascus on Friday, and later with Mashaal.
MOHAMMED NAZZAL, HAMAS OFFICIAL (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Carter dealt with a set of issues like the case of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the exchange case, the prisoners exchange between the two sides. The others are the issues of the siege on the Palestinian people especially in the Gaza Strip and the Rafa crossing. These issues were explored and there was a deep, warm, and frank dialogue.
NKWETA: Carter’s visit comes a day after he met other high-ranking Hamas officials in Egypt. The Hamas delegation had flown to Cairo for the meeting because Israel refused to grant the former US president permission to enter Gaza and meet deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. But in Israel, Deputy Prime Minister Ely Yishai said he had asked Carter earlier this week to arrange a meeting with Hamas to discuss a prisoner exchange. The US government has distanced itself from Carter’s contacts with Hamas, saying it is purely a personal initiative. The former US president defended his controversial meetings with Hamas, saying it was necessary to talk to all parties to achieve peace.