Insisting Hamas is a "fact of life," Egypt's foreign minister said Wednesday the group is entitled to a role in peacemaking with Israel and could help stabilize a Palestinian government.
"I am not a proponent of Hamas, but a civil war will take us nowhere," Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said before talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley.
"To assure you have stability then Hamas has to be in the government," Gheit said at a news conference at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center.
"The idea is not just to stop the fighting," Gheit said. The Palestinians need to have a unified delegation when Rice holds scheduled talks in Jerusalem Feb. 19 with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, the foreign minister said.
Gheit said a step-by-step peacemaking process would be a mistake. "Moving through stages is a recipe for failure," he said. "Anybody could disrupt it; anybody could create havoc."
But if an agreement is reached it could be implemented in stages and approved by an international conference that also would arrange financing for a Palestinian state, he said.