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It is inevitable there will be talk

Say what you will, eventually even those opposed to one another have to sit down and talk.   Just look at the USA.    After countless years of refusing to speak with the Taliban that is exactly what is now to happen.    And Hamas?    That looks increasingly likely, as Paul McGeough suggests in this piece in The Sydney Morning Herald "Peace talks call for a truly even hand".

"The US is now ready to talk to the Taliban, after months of diplomatic spadework by Qatar. And the Emir would be entitled to ask Obama: what would it take for Washington to talk to Hamas? Did someone say bring in the diplomatic jack-hammers?

Unlike the Taliban, which stole government in Afghanistan, Hamas was fairly elected as the governing party of the Palestinian occupied territories in 2006.

The Taliban is responsible for the deaths of more than 3300 US and allied troops, about 10,000 Afghan security personnel and thousands of Afghan civilians. By contrast, the US Congressional Research Service attributes the death of ''more than 400'' Israelis and ''more than 25 US citizens'' to attacks by Hamas in Israel.

Given that the impact of Taliban violence dwarfs that of Hamas, how does Obama go to peace talks on Afghanistan without preconditions? In the past, US officials have insisted the Taliban must reject Al-Qaeda, renounce violence and recognise the new Afghan constitution.

By this week all that had been watered down to maybe the Taliban could disown Al-Qaeda in the future; and it would be nice if the insurgents would embrace the rights of women and minorities in the constitution.

By contrast, Washington has been rigid in its demands that Hamas renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept all deals done by other Palestinian leaders with Israel and the rest of the world before it will engage with the Islamist movement.

Hamas spurned Al-Qaeda years ago, and while the Taliban is cosying up with Tehran, Hamas's relationship with Iran has cooled because the Palestinian movement refuses to back Iran's key regional ally, Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad.

Insisting on preconditions the other side cannot accept is a great ruse by which to be seen to be posturing about peace, while doing little or nothing to achieve it. Unless, that is, the Qatari Emir knows something Obama is not letting on about yet.

Hamas officials were quoted claiming US representatives had been present at a meeting between Hamas and European officials two weeks ago.

The State Department issued a denial of sorts, saying the claims ''are not true''. Indeed."


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