Hamas is backing two-state solution

Original source:

The political leader of Hamas has expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, similar to that sought by the Palestinian Authority.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal said on Tuesday that the Islamic Resistance Movement seeks the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, based on their borders before the 1967 war.

'We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce,' Mr Meshaal said, defining long-term as 10 years.

'This includes east Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees,' he stressed.

Mr Meshaal, who was re-elected to his post for four additional years last month, told the NYT that guerillas in the Gaza Strip have unilaterally ceased firing rockets at Israel for the time being.

Hamas has also limited its offensive activities against Israel following a re-evaluation of its policies, he said.

'Not firing the rockets currently is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians' interest,' he told the newspaper.

'After all, the firing is a method, not a goal - resistance is a legitimate right, but practising such a right comes under an evaluation by the movement's leaders,' Mr Meshaal added.

The Damascus-based official promised the US administration and the international community 'that we will be part of the solution, period.'

But he described Fatah's 1993 decision to recognise Israel's right to exist as an error, asking: 'Did that recognition lead to an end of the occupation?

'It's just a pretext by the United States and Israel to escape dealing with the real issue and throw the ball into the Arab and Palestinian court.'

In a shift from former US president George W Bush's approach, the Obama administration has reached out to US adversaries Syria and Iran - but it has continued to refuse to engage with Hamas.

Speaking to French television on Sunday, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad urged the US to hold talks with Hamas and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah, both of which Washington designates as terrorist groups.

But US State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood ruled this out on Monday, saying the resistance groups 'must renounce violence first.

'We would like to see Syria change the behavior of these two groups,' Mr Wood declared.

Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman refused to express support for the idea of a Palestinian state at a press conference in Rome on Tuesday.

When asked if he would ever endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state, as called for by the US and the EU, Mr Lieberman said: 'This government's goal is not produce slogans or make pompous declarations, but to reach concrete results.'