'Hamas coup is a serious blow'

Former UN Mideast envoy says creation of Palestinian state is in danger.

terje roed larsen 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
terje roed larsen 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hamas carried out "a de facto coup d'etat" against the democratically elected government in Gaza which is a serious blow to the creation of a Palestinian state and has implications for the entire Middle East, the former UN Mideast envoy said. Terje Roed-Larsen, now the president of the International Peace Academy and a UN envoy for Lebanon-Syria issues, called the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip "a defining moment in the history of the Middle East and the history of Middle East conflicts." "We've had an intra-Arab strife, de facto a civil war in Gaza, which has led to a de facto coup d'etat," he said in an interview Friday. "This has forced a new agenda on the table of the Arab League and the Arab world as well as the broader international community." "We have now a de facto mini-state in Gaza after the coup d'etat headed by the former prime minister, and we have a legitimate, democratically elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his recently appointed prime minister, in Ramallah in the West Bank," Roed-Larsen said. He called Hamas' actions "completely counterproductive to the just aspirations of the Palestinian people" and "the most serious blow against the establishment of a Palestinian state." He said it was "of utmost importance" for the international community to launch a diplomatic drive that would include moderate Arab states, Europe and the United States under the legitimacy of the United Nations. "Only such an alliance will have the possibility of preventing further proliferation of violence," said Roed-Larsen, who spent 12 years trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the core of the international alliance, he said, should be the Arab Peace Initiative and the roadmap to peace. The Arab initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and relaunched this year, offers peace with Israel in exchange for a full withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Mideast War, while the roadmap would result in the establishment of a Palestinian state, which Roed-Larsen said should be promoted through cooperation with Abbas. "Time is running out and we are now probably facing the last possibility of proving that the negotiating table is a better tool than the barrel of a gun in order for the Palestinians to reach their aspirations," Roed-Larsen said. He said all parties must accept new elections "where the Palestinian people will have to make a choice between the repressive militants of the now de facto rulers of Gaza and those who want to move forward with peaceful means in order to reach their political goals." This will require support from the international community and Israel, Roed-Larsen said. The International Peace Academy, a New York think tank, focuses on efforts to prevent and settle armed conflicts around the world.