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Syria Says Israel Unwilling to Achieve Regional Peace

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, shakes hands with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as former Irish President Mari Robinson, right, looks on in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told a foreign group of dignitaries that includes former U.S. president Jimmy Carter that Israel is not willing or able to achieve peace in the region.

Syria's state-run SANA news says Mr. Assad said only a "just and comprehensive" peace would bring security and stability to the Middle East and Israel's current government is not capable of achieving that goal. He commented Tuesday in a meeting with a delegation of former world leaders known as "The Elders."

The group, which is being led by former Irish president Mary Robinson, is on a tour of the region. The delegation also met Tuesday with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal. After the meeting, Mr. Carter called the Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza one of the "most serious human rights violations on earth."

He also said efforts to isolate Hamas are a basic cause of suffering in Gaza where over 1 million people are being held in a "cage or prison" with no human rights.

Israel imposed the partial blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control in 2007. Israel says its goal is to prevent Palestinian militants from obtaining weapons.

Mr. Carter helped broker the 1979 Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt.

"The Elders" was founded by former South African president Nelson Mandela to impact world affairs. The group began its tour in Egypt and has stops in Jordan and Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.