Mahmoud Zahar 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas on Friday hailed the meeting between the group's representatives and former top US diplomat Thomas Pickering.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post revealed that Pickering, a former US ambassador to Israel and the UN as well as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright's deputy in the Clinton Administration, met last month in Geneva with Hamas leaders Bassem Naim and Mahmoud Zahar.
A Hamas source quoted by Israel Radio on Friday stated that the meeting joined other attempts by by former US diplomats to put the feelers out in a bid to gauge the group's positions on various issues, and expressed hope that the changes in the diplomats' attitudes toward the group would eventually influence decision-makers in Washington.
The State Department stressed that the meeting between Pickering and the Hamas leaders was not sanctioned by the US Administration and that its policy regarding the group remained unchanged - that it had to accept the Quartet conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and abiding by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements as a precondition for dialogue.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly emphasized that Pickering acted as a private citizen and that he was unaware of any prior coordination with the former diplomat about the meeting.
The Washington Post had quoted Naim as saying of the meeting: "I hope it will be the beginning of addressing some of the mistakes of the last three yearsâ€¦"This was a first meeting to investigate the positions in general terms of both parties without any commitment on any side."