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 Friday, February 10, 2006

HAMAS Has a Friend in Russian President Putin

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Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, yesterday said he would invite leaders of Hamas, the victorious Islamist party in last month's Palestinian elections, to Moscow to discuss the Middle East peace process.

Mr. Putin has decided to pull away from agreed US and European policy to isolate HAMAS.

By extending the invitation, Russia has become the first member of the international Quartet, sponsors of the "roadmap" peace plan, to openly engage with the Islamist group.

The US and EU have said that they will not deal with Hamas until it renounces violence and recognises Israel.

The UN has also called on the Islamist movement to lay down its arms.

But Hamas has said it would not be pressed into recognising Israel, in spite of threats to cut international aid to the Palestinians.

On a visit to Madrid, Mr Putin said:

"We need to recognise that Hamas has come to power as a result of a legitimate election and we need to respect the will of the Palestinian people.

To burn bridges would be the simplest action, but it lacks perspective.

Preserving our contacts with Hamas, we are willing in the near future to invite the authorities of Hamas to Moscow to carry out talks "

Mr Putin did not specify a date for the meeting but a trip to Moscow would be a diplomatic coup for Hamas leaders, who have so far not been welcome outside the Arab and Islamic world.

It was not the first time he had voiced such an opinion. In a news conference late last month, after the Palestinian elections, he said Russia had "never regarded Hamas as a terrorist organization," and did NOT rule out financial aid for a Hamas-led government.

Ismail Haniya, one of the movement's leaders in Gaza who was elected to parliament last month, said yesterday: "If we receive an official invitation to visit Russia, we will visit Russia."

The Palestinian National Authority approves of Russia's plans to invite the leadership of the radical Islamic group Hamas, recently elected to the Palestinian parliament, to Moscow, a PNA diplomat said Thursday.

"We hail steps seeking to settle the situation in the region, which will finally lead to peace and the establishment of an independent state with the capital in Jerusalem and borders of 1967," an advisor of the PNA embassy in Moscow said. Read here for more

Israeli officials in Jerusalem expressed their shock Thursday evening following Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Hamas leaders to visit Moscow.

The officials made it clear that Putin's remarks contradict the Quartet's stance.

They added that the Putin's statement Russia does not consider Hamas a terror group contradicts the outlook of the entire international community. Read here for more

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