There can't be peace between Israel and the Palestinians unless Hamas is directly involved, former US president Jimmy Carter said Thursday. Carter also said Hamas and Fatah must reconcile so they can negotiate effectively with Israel. He spoke to reporters after meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad and ahead of talks with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus. It will to be Carter's third meeting with Mashaal in the past year. After his presidency, Carter continued to pursue Mideast peace through his Carter Center foundation. He drew criticism from the Bush administration for talking to Hamas. Carter's trip to Syria comes just days before US President Barack Obama's special Mideast envoy George Mitchell is to visit Damascus.