Mr. Pickering met with senior Hamas officials, Mahmoud al-Zahar and Bassem Naim in Geneva in mid-June.
The Washington Post reported that the Hamas officials had said they believed the meeting "represented an opening in relations with the Obama administration."
However, US officials said they had only learned of the meeting afterward:
They said Pickering had not been asked to approach Hamas and had no official standing; U.S. officials learned of the meeting only afterward. Policy toward the Islamist group, they said, remains what it was under President George W. Bush: that Hamas is a terrorist organization with which the United States will not even sanction a meeting.But according to Al-Ahram, Mr. Pickering's participation at the meeting "was coordinated with and promoted by the US State Department.":
Before Hamas can participate in peace talks, "we have made it clear, both publicly and privately... that we would expect Hamas to... renounce violence and agree to abide by prior agreements," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said... in Washington....
Participating in these meetings were Thomas Pickering... and Robert Malley [who served as Middle East policy adviser to Barack Obama during the presidential campaign]... in addition to researchers and European and US experts in contact with Hamas...The Arab weekly also goes on to quote senior Hamas officials as saying that "Hamas accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state within the June 1967 borders" and that "Hamas would not stand in the way of a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Israel."
Although the Americans who participated in these meetings do not hold any official positions in the US administration, their participation in these meetings was coordinated with and promoted by the US State Department.
But according to World Net Daily, Hamas has been issuing conciliatory statements when communicating with the West, however, when speaking with Palestinians, "Hamas stresses that its fundamental... strategy remains unchanged."
Case in point:
At a July 27 ceremony held in the Al-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City, Mahmoud al-Zahar... "clarified his group adheres to the position that the [Palestinian] state must contain all the territory of Palestine."
Continued al-Zahar: "We are certain that what comes after the liberation of Palestine will not be only a state. After the liberation of Palestine a large revolution will reach everywhere."...