Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (R) shakes hands with the deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya in Gaza City, June 16, 2009. (Xinhua/Stringer)
GAZA, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday called on the Palestinians to reunite to pave the way for the establishment of their independent statehood.
Carter made the call from Gaza city when he toured
neighborhoods that have sustained damage and destruction during Israel's 22-day
offensive against the Hamas-run enclave in January.
"The way of rebuilding, ending the suffering and
(achieving) peace goes through the Palestinian unity," Carter told reporters
shortly after he crossed into Gaza on his first visit to the Hamas-controlled
He said he was sad hearing that "the Palestinian
brothers" fight and arrest each others in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,
referring to a bitter power-struggle between Hamas and PalestinianPresident
Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party.
Carter arrived in the Hamas-controlled Gaza on
Tuesday morning on a peace mission, carrying a proposal for Hamas to settle
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a letter from the parents of Gilad Shalit to
their captive son who was kidnapped by Hamas in 2006.
Carter, who is the highest former diplomat to visit
Gaza after the war, is scheduled to meet with Hamas' lawmakers and officials,
including the deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya.
Prior to his meeting with Hamas, Carter will visit a
Palestinian hospital and meet officials from the United Nations Relief and Works
In 2007, Hamas, which won the parliamentary elections
a year earlier, routed security forces of president Mahmoud Abbas and ousted his
Fatah party in a deadly fighting.
The United States and most of the European countries
bar official talks with Hamas unless the latter recognizes Israel and abides by
interim peace deals.