Report: U.S. Officials Urge Obama to Engage Hamas

Boston Globe: Officials calling on Obama to talk to Hamas, which would mark major U.S. policy change.

A group of former senior American officials and one current adviser are calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to talk with Hamas in an effort to disarm the group and persuade it to join a peaceful Palestinian government, according to a report published Saturday on the Boston Globe.

According to the Boston Globe, the bipartisan group includes economic recovery adviser Paul A. Volcker and former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who are said to have made their recommendation in a letter handed to Obama before he took office.

"I see no reason not to talk to Hamas," Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, told the Boston Globe.

Talking to Hamas would signal a shift in U.S. policy, which has up until now designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and insisted that the group renounce violence, recognize Israel and agree to all previous peace agreements signed by Palestinian negotiators.

The contents of the letter have not been made public, but Scowcroft and Henry Siegman, who brought the officials together, told the Boston Globe that it urged Obama to formulate a clear stance on how peace talks should proceed and state specific goals to be attained.

"The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process," Scowcroft told the Boston Globe. "Don't move it to end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the U.S. needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down."

Along with Scowcroft, Volcker, and Brzezinski, signatories included former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton; former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering; former World Bank president James Wolfensohn; former U.S. trade representative Carla Hills; Theodore Sorensen, former special counsel to President John F. Kennedy; and former Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Nancy Kassebaum Baker.

EU lawmakwers meet with Hamas delegation in Damascus

A European parliamentary delegation on Saturday met with members of Hamas's political leadership-in-exile in Damascus to discuss ways to end the group's international isolation.

The six-member EU delegation, which includes lawmakers from Britain and Ireland, said that their meeting with Hamas politburo leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus was intended to encourage more Europeans to recognise Hamas as a legitimate movement that was democratically elected by its people.

"We believe that we should start talking with Hamas, and the more the delay, the more the suffering," Irish EU parliamentarian Chris Andrew said following the group's meeting.

The European Union added Hamas to its list of terrorist organizations in 2003. Though Europe kept direct ties with the political party, it froze the group's assets in Europe.

Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas leader based in Lebanon, said that Hamas has held personal meetings with European figures for more than two years, but that the meetings were kept private at the Europeans' request.

"The British chose to bring these meetings out from the shadows now, because they realized the failure of the policy of excluding Hamas," Hamdan said.

A British diplomat in Syria said on condition of anonymity Saturday that the delegation had undertaken the visit in a private capacity, and that the visit had not been coordinated with the British government.

A delegation of Italian and Greek EU lawmakers is expected to arrive in Syria in the coming days.