Talk to Hamas: Nobel Laureate Ahtisaari

The West need to end the Hamas isolation policy if it really wants to achieve peace in the troubled Middle East, 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Marrti Ahtisaari believes.

"We have to start, I think, talking to Hamas," Ahtisaari, a former Finish president and a UN especial envoy at the Kosovo status process negotiations, said in an exclusive interview with Reuters.

"You can’t eliminate those who have power," maintained the UN diplomat and mediator who is world-renowned for his international peace work.

Led by the US, the West has rejected contacts with Hamas since the group swept Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and came to power.

But calls for dialogue with Hamas have intensified recently, especially after Israel’s three-week war which killed more than 1,350 people, mostly civilians.

Last month, a group of former international peace negotiators urged the West to re-think the Hamas isolation policy, insisting the group must be engaged in the peace process.

Middle East Quartet envoy and former British premier Tony Blair has also called for Hamas inclusion in the peace process.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the West to respect the democratic Palestinian elections that brought Hamas to power.

"You have to talk to those who are representative, whether you like their views or not," agreed Ahtisaari.


The former Finish leader and UN envoy criticized the preconditions set by the West for talks with Hamas.

"I am not a card player but I would definitely not start my game with you by saying ‘Hey, I have four aces,’" he told Reuters.

The US and Europe link any talks with Hamas to its recognition of Israel, acceptance of signed peace agreements and end of what they described as "violence" against Israel.

Ahtisaari, who won the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of "his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts," warned that a continued isolation policy could backfire.

"It’s dangerous if you exclude. Look at Algeria."

He was referring to the bloodshed that erupted in the North African country after the authorities in 1992 canceled an election the Islamic Salvation Front, an Islamist party, appeared poised to win after the first round of voting.

"I don’t think you can make peace if you try to eliminate those who have the support of the population."
( and News Agencies)

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