DAMASCUS Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has stated explicitly that the Palestinian Islamist group will end its armed struggle against Israel if the Jewish state withdraws from Palestinian land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East War.
Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, has long maintained that it will enter into a long-term truce if Israel pulls out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and agrees to a right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees.
Speaking on the Charlie Rose program on U.S. PBS television, Meshaal directly addressed the issue of armed resistance, which is the basis of its ideology as a national liberation movement.
"Israel started (the conflict) by the occupation so the resistance is a reaction. The action is the occupation, and the reaction from the Palestinians is that it ends," Meshaal said, in an interview taped on Thursday, according to a transcript released by PBS.
"So when the occupation comes to an end, the resistance will end, as simple as that. If Israel would go to the 1967 borders ... that will be the end of the Palestinian resistance."
Meshaal said if a "Palestinian state with real sovereignty" were established under the conditions he set out, then the nature of any subsequent ties with Israel would be decided democratically by the Palestinians.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since it won a brief civil war in 2007 against supporters of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's more secular Fatah faction, creating a schism that has undermined the Palestinian cause.
Hamas opposes the indirect peace talks started last month between the Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas and Israel, saying Abbas will compromise on national rights.
The movement had said it could live peacefully alongside Israel if a two-state solution was reached in which all occupied Palestinian land was returned, even though its 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of pre-1948 British-mandate Palestine.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)