Former President Carter met Friday with the exiled leader of Hamas
and the group's deputy chief, men the US government has labeled as global terrorists and Israel accuses of masterminding suicide bombings and kidnappings.
Carter's meeting with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal followed two other meetings between the former American president and the Palestinian militant group in the Middle East this week. Hamas officials say the meetings have lent their group legitimacy.
Earlier Friday, Carter met with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Mashaal's deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk attended the meeting with Carter at Mashaal's Damascus office.
Aides to Carter said they plan to hold a second round of talks with Hamas on Friday night to discuss proposals for a ceasefire with Israel
and for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, that Carter made when he met Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
Mohammad Nazzal, a member of the Hamas leadership, said the talks would study the details of proposals put forward by Carter in more than four hours of talks with Mashaal.
"Carter's aides and the members of Hamas' political bureau will meet to discuss the price for Shalit's release as well as halting the rocket fire on Israel," said Nazzal.
Nazzal also said that the talks with Carter proved that the political isolation imposed by the US on Hamas was beginning to crumble.
A group of senior Hamas officials from the Gaza Strip will travel to Damascus on Saturday to hold talks with carter, al-Jazeera TV network reported Friday.
The delegation will be led by Hamas' Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar.
Before Friday's meeting began, Abu Marzouk said that calming the situation between Hamas and Israel as well as the fate of Shalit would be on the agenda.
"Hamas will not be a hurdle in any future prisoner exchange," Abu Marzouk said.
Asked if Hamas is ready to sit and talk directly to the Israelis, Abu Marzouk said: "There are no (direct) meetings with the Israelis. Most of the meetings that took place between the two sides were not direct."