Leaders from key Muslim countries on Thursday asked the world to respect the electoral victory of Hamas and to wait and see whether the group will change in power.
"If the people of Palestine have expressed their will by voting for Hamas, we should respect it and give Hamas a chance to prove itself while in government," Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a session of the World Economic Forum.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf echoed Karzai at the same session: "The reality is that Hamas has won. It has been chosen by the people, so we should accept that reality."
He said Israel should accept this reality and expressed the hope that Hamas will "shun the path of confrontation and go toward negotiations with Israel."
Hamas is labeled a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the Hamas in government is different from the Hamas in the streets. "If Hamas is going to form the government, in the seat of authority, having the responsibility to govern, to negotiate, to reach peace, it’s different from Hamas the organization whose people are in the streets."
In a videolink, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there could be no Middle East peace process while Hamas still refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. "You cannot have one foot in politics and the other in terror," she said.
Queen Rania of Jordan said that the vote for Hamas was also a vote against plight of Palestinians living in Israeli occupation. "It is an example of when people are frustrated and have no hope for the future they tend to go for the extreme end of the spectrum."
It now remains to be seen if Hamas will pursue their policies of violence or seek other ways of achieving freedom for Palestinians, she added.
Iraqi National Assembly President Hajim Alhasani said bringing Hamas into the political process should serve democracy. "There will be pressure on them to modernize and be democratic, or they will be out of the political game," he told the session.
Alhasani recalled that late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had long been labeled a terrorist, but eventually emerged sharing a Nobel Peace Prize with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. People and parties can change as the circumstances change, he argued.
Musharraf said the outside world should put pressure on both a Hamas administration in Palestine and Israel to work together. Israel should be urged to accept the reality of a Palestinian homeland. Hamas, as a radical movement, could prove to be the power that can bring peace. "Let us give Hamas a chance," he added.