Kerry: Hamas letter doesn't change policy

Senator receives document during Gaza visit; group asks US president to "deal fairly" with ME conflict.

john kerry 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
john kerry 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The United States will not change its policy towards Hamas, despite a letter which will be passed to the new American president requesting that he engage the group in dialogue, Senator John Kerry said on Saturday. "[The letter] doesn't change our policy in not dealing with terrorists," Kerry said during an interview with Channel 2. "We will deal with the Palestinian Authority government, with [PA President Mahmoud Abbas], and [PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad]." Hamas official Ahmed Yousef on Saturday said he wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama, which was received by Kerry during his visit to Gaza. The letter was given to UN officials who passed it to the US senator during a one-day visit to Gaza on Thursday. Yousef said that the letter was endorsed by the Hamas government. The letter calls on Obama "to deal in a fair way with the Palestinian issue," he said, noting that many Palestinians believe that US foreign policy is biased in Israel's favor. Late on Friday, Reuters quoted a US official as saying the letter was given to Kerry along with other material during a meeting Thursday with the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Karen Abu Zayd. The origin of the letter was only discovered after the fact, Senate Foreign Relations Committee spokesman Frederick Jones said. Kerry handed the letter over to the US consulate in Jerusalem, which would send it to Washington for review, Reuters reported. At first, Hamas denied addressing a letter to Obama. One Palestinian official suggested that the letter was the private initiative of an adviser to the group, who wrote it without consulting with the organization's leaders. However, according to the New York Times, Yousef, the letter's author, called on the new US administration to bring real change to the Middle East. "There can be no peace without Hamas," Mr. Yousef told the Times that he had written. "We also said that Mr. Kerry's visit to Gaza showed that the new administration has a clarity of vision and is not controlled by Israeli propaganda," Yousef was quoted by the newspaper as saying.