Published April 24, 2008
Recent talks between former president Jimmy Carter and a militant leader failed to make much of a difference in Gaza, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Wednesday.
Carter's meeting with exiled Hamas militant leader Khaled Meshaal, which drew anger from both the U.S. and Israel, did not produce a cease fire or prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel, al-Malki told Agence France-Presse.
"The only thing he achieved was permission on the part of Khaled Meshaal of Hamas to deliver a letter from a detained Israeli soldier to his family. Nothing else," al-Malki told AFP.
Also on Wednesday, Carter stopped just short of saying that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was lying about warning him not to meet last week with Hamas leaders in Syria.
"President Carter has the greatest respect for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and believes her to be a truthful person," read a statement issued by the Carter Center in Atlanta. "However, perhaps inadvertently, she is continuing to make a statement that is not true."
Carter has said that he met with Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, and that Welch told him it was not advisable to meet with Hamas. The former president maintains he was never told not to go.
"No one in the State Department or any other department of the U.S. government ever asked him (Carter) to refrain from his recent visit to the Middle East or even suggested that he not meet with Syrian President (Bashar) Assad or leaders of Hamas," said the Carter Center, which often speaks on the former president's behalf.
The statement said Carter tried to call Rice before making the trip and a deputy returned his call, since Rice was in Europe.
"They had a very pleasant discussion for about 15 minutes, during which he never made any of the negative or cautionary comments described above. He never talked to anyone else," the Carter Center statement said.
Rice on Tuesday told a very different story.
"I just don't want there to be any confusion," Rice told reporters covering her trip to Kuwait. "The United States is not going to deal with Hamas, and we certainly told President Carter that meeting with Hamas was not going to help" the current situation in the region.
Carter, meanwhile, said Meshaal told him during meetings in Damascus on Friday and Saturday that the militant political organization would "accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders if approved by Palestinians."
Hamas has stated its dedication to the destruction of Israel, and is listed by the State Department, European Union and Israel as a terrorist organization.
The Bush administration has said that Carter's meetings could undermine the peace process started in Annapolis, Md., last year, and that Carter's visit gave tacit recognition to a terrorist group.
Reuters and the Washington Post contributed to this story.