GENEVA (AFP) — Kofi Annan on Tuesday defended former US president Jimmy Carter for holding direct talks with Hamas in Syria in the face of sharp attacks from both Israel and the White House.
"I don't think the criticism is entirely fair," the former United Nations secretary general told reporters at a press conference for his new Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.
"We should be cautious not to over-react but take advantage of whatever openings president Carter has been able to obtain to move the process forward," he said.
"He's the only president who's been able to broker an enduring peace agreement between Israel and Egypt and for that we are very grateful," Annan said.
Carter held talks last week with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Syrian capital Damascus against the advice of US officials.
"We counseled president Carter against going to the region, in particular against having contact with Hamas," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.
"The United States is not going to deal with Hamas, and we certainly told president Carter that we didn't think meeting with Hamas was going to help the Palestinians who (are) actually devoted to peace," Rice said.
Annan urged the administration of current US President George W. Bush to step up its efforts in the region, saying only Washington carries sufficient clout to make a deal possible.