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Hamas must be involved in political process

London, Feb 26, IRNA -- A dozen former international peace negotiators joined together Thursday in a united call for Hamas to be included in the Middle East peace process.

"An Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement without Hamas will not be possible," warned the negotiators, who included former UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Alvaro de Soto.

"The latest and bloodiest conflict between Israel and Hamas has demonstrated that the policy of isolating Hamas cannot bring about stability," they said in a joint letter to the Times newspaper Thursday.

"As former peace negotiators, we believe it is of vital importance to abandon the failed policy of isolation and to involve Hamas in the political process," the letter said.

Other signatories included former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, who helped to develop the UN plan for the rebuilding of Cambodia and Britain's former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Paddy Ashdown, who was the international High Representative for Bosnia.

There were also several former negotiators from the Northern Ireland peace process, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume as well as Peter Gastrow from South Africa's National Peace Committee.

The call was also supported by former WU External Affairs Commissioner Lord Patten, who served as Britain's last governor of Hong Kong and by Ram Manikkalingam, a senior advisor on the Peace Process in Sri Lanka.

"Whether we like it or not, Hamas will not go away. Since its victory in democratic elections in 2006, Hamas has sustained its support in Palestinian society despite attempts to destroy it through economic blockades, political boycotts and military incursions," they said.

Their letter criticised the conditions imposed by the Middle East on Hamas as "an unworkable threshold from which to commence negotiations."

"We have learnt first-hand that there is no substitute for direct and sustained negotiations with all parties to a conflict, and rarely if ever a durable peace without them," the former peace negotiators said.

They believed that the new US Administration and the appointment of George Mitchell as the Middle East envoy "give hope that a new strategy grounded in realism and not ideology will be pursued."

"Without this, there will be no two-state solution and no peace and security for either Israelis or Palestinians," the joint letter said, adding that engaging Hamas is "a precondition for security and for brokering a workable agreement."

... Payvand News - 02/26/09 ... --

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