PA to Carter: Don't meet with Mashaal

Former US president visits Ramallah, lays floral wreath on Arafat's grave.

carterarafatgrave224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority officials urged visiting former US President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday not to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus later this week. The officials expressed fear that Carter's planned talks with Mashaal would legitimize Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip and undermine the authority of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. "This is not a good idea," a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. "The meeting will strengthen Hamas and legitimize its illegal and bloody coup in the Gaza Strip." Ignoring the criticism, Carter met here Tuesday with Nasser Eddin Shaer, the former deputy prime minister in the Hamas government. Shaer, a professor of Islamic studies at Nablus's A-Najah University, resigned from the Hamas government after being arrested by the IDF last May. He has since distanced himself from the Hamas leadership and openly criticized the movement's takeover of the Gaza Strip. Shaer was among a group of Palestinian figures who were invited to a reception with Carter. "He gave me a hug and we hugged each other warmly," Shaer told reporters afterward. "It was a positive meeting." He added that he and the Palestinian figures told Carter that peace with Israel was not impossible. "Israel must abide by all the agreements [with the Palestinians], lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, release all prisoners and stop its daily military aggressions on the Palestinian people so as to pave the way for a just and comprehensive peace," he said. On Tuesday, Israel refused Carter's request to visit the Gaza Strip, where he was expected to hold talks with Hamas leaders. Earlier, Carter met with PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad in Ramallah and laid a wreath of red roses at the grave of Yasser Arafat at the Mukata presidential compound. Hailing Arafat's "historic role in serving his people's cause," Carter said the former PLO chairman was a "dear friend." Carter also criticized Israel for allegedly failing to implement the understandings that were reached with the Palestinians at the Annapolis summit in November. He was received at the Mukata by Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a top aide to Abbas, who is on his way to Russia and the US. Abdel Rahim expressed satisfaction with Carter's visit, especially the laying of the wreath on Arafat's tomb. "This is a very important visit," he said, noting that US President George W. Bush and other top administration officials had refused to honor Arafat during their visits to Ramallah. Abdel Rahim told Carter he was confident that the day would come when Arafat's tomb would be transferred to Jerusalem, "the capital of the Palestinian state."