The emir of oil-rich Qatar is the first foreign leader to visit Hamas in Gaza, but the U.S. State Dept. does not seem to be clued in.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani crossed into Gaza on Tuesday in the first visit by a head of state since the Islamist Hamas movement took over in 2007.
During his brief visit, the emir will inaugurate a $254-million Qatari investment project.
Asked by a reporter in Washington about the visit, U.S. State Dept, Spokesman Mark Toner said, “I don’t have any reaction to it. I don’t think I have much to – what did you say? He’s going to visit?"
Reminded by the journalist that the emir was to visit Gaza, Toner answered, “Gaza. Let me check. I don’t think I have any comment on it.”
He later added at the daily press briefing, “Actually, I did find – we have seen reports about the possible visit to Gaza by Qatari senior officials, and our only comment would be that our position towards Hamas has not changed. We still view them as a designated foreign terrorist organization.”
Toner also held back from criticizing former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who once again lashed out at Israel this week, saying that the United States has “zero influence” on Israel to pursue the “two-state solution.”
Toner said he has not seen Carter’s remarks but quickly added that the Obama administration is still pursing the “peace process,” which virtually all media analysts have dismissed as dead and buried,
“You know what we’re trying to do there,” Toner said, “David Hale remains very engaged on this issue. The Secretary’s obviously engaged on this issue. We want to see both parties get back to the negotiating table. It’s our firm belief that only by getting them into direct talks will they be able to resolve these issues."