JERUSALEM (CNN) -- After talks with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Hamas' exiled leader Khalid Meshaal said Monday the militant group has no plans to recognize Israel.
Former President Jimmy Carter, above, held meetings with exiled militant Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal.
"We agree on the [Palestinian] state with the borders of June 4, 1967, Jerusalem as its capital, fully sovereign without settlements, the right of return, but without the recognition of Israel," Meshaal said at a news conference in Damascus, Syria.
Earlier in the day, Carter said that Hamas is prepared to accept peace with Israel if the Palestinian people approve any agreement that may be negotiated with the Jewish state.
Carter's comments came after controversial meetings Friday and Saturday in Damascus, Syria, with exiled militant Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal.
"If President [Mahmoud] Abbas of the Palestinians and Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert reach an agreement for peace, and if it is submitted to the Palestinians and the Palestinians approve it... Hamas will accept it," Carter said in a Monday interview with CNN.
Carter's series of meetings with top Hamas officials this past week have drawn condemnation from the U.S. and Israeli governments for engaging in diplomacy with a group they consider a terrorist organization.
Carter's tour of the Middle East has also included a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, with two senior Hamas politicians before his meetings with Meshaal.
"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," Carter said Tuesday at the beginning of his trip.
Most Israeli officials have refused to meet Carter during his trip, angry over his insistence that Israel should talk to Hamas. Many Israelis disagree with Carter's observations about Israeli policies toward Palestinians in his recent book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."
U.S. and Israeli officials believe Carter's meetings with Hamas will achieve little, and could actually harm the Middle East peace process.
"Regrettably, Hamas will try to take political advantage of this," Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch told CNN on Friday. However, he added, "I think President Carter's sincere -- this man worked hard on peace."
Later Friday, at a State Department briefing in Washington, spokesman Sean McCormack said, "I don't think people are going to confuse the efforts of a private citizen ... with the very clear policies of the United States government."
"We think it is not useful for people to be running to Hamas at this point and having meetings with Hamas," said U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
For the Israelis, a military solution is an elusive one -- but reaching out to Hamas, Israel insists, will not bring peace.
"Hamas is conducting war against the citizens of Israel," said Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Britain. "What do you say to people who say: 'Why don't you talk, try and talk, and not to shoot?' ? It sounds very good but the question is, at what stage do you do that?"
And McCormack said Friday: "We find it very odd that one would encourage to have a conversation between the Israeli government and Hamas, which doesn't even recognize the right of the Israeli government to exist. So how can you have -- is that really the basis of a conversation?"
Carter, the man who helped broker the historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in the late 1970s, has said he's simply on a "study mission" to support peace, democracy, and human rights in the region.
"It's my dream and my hope, that someday in my lifetime, hopefully this year, we'll see a major breakthrough," Carter said. E-mail to a friend
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