TOKYO: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today reiterated that his meeting with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khalid Meshaal in Qatar last week was to persuade them for a peaceful solution to the Gaza conflict.

“I’ve known them (Hamas leaders) for decades and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t meet them. I said, please respect the decision of your neighbouring countries and try to secure peace, exchange prisoners and accept a two-state solution.

“Is that an offence? Did I promote terrorism? No. I appealed because I have an advantage. What is my advantage? I know them; they consider me a friend.”

He said this at a question-and-answer session during the Nikkei Forum 29th Future of Asia here in response to a question on his recent meeting with Haniyeh and Meshaal in Doha.

“Gaza’s situation is a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale. Let us view it in this context. Never mind the differences in terms of ideologies or bilateral relations with other states.

“But can we in this period and age condone and turn a blind eye towards the massive atrocities?

“We can go on discussing what happened on Oct 7, but do not erase seven decades (of atrocities) from the period of Nakba in 1948.

“That is why I asserted that we go for a peaceful resolution, support the position taken by neighbouring Muslim countries and the international community, and force both parties to accept peace and a two-state solution.

“But what is important now is to stop the killings. Stop shooting women and children, stop the destruction of hospitals, schools, churches and mosques,“ Anwar stressed.

Since the new round of the Israel-Hamas conflict started in October 2023, more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, with close to 25,000 of the victims being children and women.

The meeting on May 13 with Haniyeh, the Hamas Political Bureau chief, and former Hamas chairman Meshaal was Anwar’s first in his capacity as the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Anwar had met Haniyeh twice before, in 2019 and 2020.

Wisma Putra, in a statement dated Nov 14, 2018, said Malaysia firmly upholds its position that a two-state solution, in which the Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in peace, based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, is the only viable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.