Hamas leader blames Israel for standstill

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal blamed Israeli “unreliability” for bringing peace talks to a standstill.

In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro published Monday, Meshaal called on France to replace the United States as peace broker in the region. He said France was better equipped to be a fair mediator in the region because it was more even-handed than the United States.

“Americans, through their partiality in favor of Israel, are disqualified as mediators,” Meshaal said. “Today there is a vacuum, which calls for an initiative from France.”

Meshaal, whose democratically elected Palestinian movement is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union, condemned current Palestinian-Israel peace negotiations, and said deals to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit were “deadlocked.” A new Israeli government led by Tzipi Livni would change little, he added.

“Palestinians know from experience that a change of leaders in Israel rarely brings a profound modification to the country’s strategy,” Meshaal told Le Figaro.

Referring to peace talks, he said all Palestinians “condemned these meetings,” citing Israel’s neglect of major Palestinian demands.

“Palestinians are currently divided, so the Palestinian side is negotiating from a point of weakness,” rendering the talks meaningless, Meshaal said.

On the Egyptian-mediated talks to free Shalit, the French-Israeli soldier captured by Hamas two years ago, Meshaal said, “They are at a standstill because of the lack of reliability of Israeli negotiators.”

Asked if Hamas wanted to eradicate Israel, Meshaal said, “We’ve never had a problem with the Jews, but only with the people who occupy our land.”

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