ROME (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama is using a “new language” in relations with the Middle East and an official overture toward Hamas is only a matter of time, the Islamist group’s leader Khalid Mishal said in a newspaper interview.
“A new language toward the region is coming from President Obama. The challenge for everybody is for this to be the prelude for a genuine change in U.S. and European policies. Regarding an official opening toward Hamas, it’s a matter of time,” Mishal told Italian daily La Repubblica in an interview published on Sunday.
The newspaper said Meshaal was reacting to Obama’s offer of better ties with Iran, Hamas’s main backer along with Syria.
However, in the interview, Mishal made no direct reference to Obama’s videotaped overture on Friday, nor to Iran’s response.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday Obama’s offer of a “new beginning” between the two foes was just a “slogan,” but pledged Tehran would respond to any real policy shift by Washington.
Mishal said Israel’s 22-day offensive in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in December and January had not dented Hamas’s influence.
“The great powers need us in order to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Our weight in the Palestinian problem comes from us being rooted in the society, in the population, which voted for us and will do it again,” he said.