RAFAH, Egypt – A Hamas delegation crossed into Egypt from Gaza on Wednesday for talks with Jimmy Carter, an AFP reporter said, after Israel barred the former US president from visiting the Palestinian territory.
The delegation, which includes leaders Mahmud Zahar and Said Siam and four others, will head to Cairo by car for the talks with Carter.
“Mahmud Zahar and Said Siam are going today to Cairo to meet Jimmy Carter as part of his tour of the Middle East region,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in Gaza.
Zahar and Siam are considered hardline Hamas leaders who planned the takeover of Gaza from forces loyal to moderate Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in June.
Carter Centre officials would neither confirm nor deny plans for the Cairo meeting.
The ex-president is also expected to meet exiled Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus over the weekend, despite strong opposition from Israel and the US administration.
Carter, winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace prize, on Sunday began a nine-day tour of the region to promote the Middle East peace process.
Israeli political leaders snubbed him over his plans to talk with Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation by the Jewish state as well as the United States and European Union.
Carter said Israel denied him permission to travel to the Gaza Strip. Israel sealed the borders with Gaza after Hamas took control of the territory.
Carter, who insists he is not acting as a mediator, has been urging talks with Hamas and Syria, saying a Middle East peace accord cannot be reached without them.
After Egypt, Carter is due to travel to Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
(AFP via Khaleej Times)