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Hamas officials in Moscow for talks

July 1, 2012

Friday, March 3. 2006

Hamas officials have arrived in Russia for their first talks with a major foreign power and reaffirmed their refusal to recognise Israel.

Mohammed Nazzal, a senior official, said that “the issue of recognition is a done issue. We are not going to recognise Israel”.

Nazzal, who is accompanying exiled Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mishaal, spoke to reporters after their delegation arrived in Moscow on Friday.

Although it deals a blow to US-led efforts to isolate Hamas since it swept Palestinian elections in January, Russia’s mediation is seen by some in the West as a chance to press the Palestinian movement into embracing more moderate views.

Russia has said that, in talks slated for later on Friday, it would endorse the view of fellow patrons of the “road map” to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence that Hamas must recognise the Jewish state, renounce violence and accept past peace accords.

The pledge helped quell concern in Israel, which sees Hamas as a spearhead of a more than 5-year-old Palestinian uprising (intifada).

Occupation and recognition

Hamas regards the visit as a chance to push its position on the Western stage after winning support in the developing world.

Mishaal said: “Our visit to Moscow is a very important step for achieving a breakthrough in our international position.”

He added that “this is a visit that has no conditions. We will listen to the position of Russian officials and we will clarify our own position.”

In an interview with NTV television in Syria on Thursday, Mishaal said: “Our people want simple things: to be free and to have sovereignty. All this is impossible without an end to the occupation.”

He declined to comment on the question of recognising Israel.

Hamas, whose charter calls for resistance to the occupation and the return of all Palestinian land, has been responsible for several bombings during the intifada but has largely abided by a truce declared last year which paved the way for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

While so far ruling out permanent coexistence, Hamas has said it could accept a long-term ceasefire if Israel also quits all of the occupied West Bank and accepts an influx of Palestinian war refugees.

US monitoring

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to lead Moscow’s delegation in talks with Hamas, which will be closely monitored by Washington.

US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said: “Our position is that if you are going to meet with a terrorist group, you should make it clear to them that their way of doing business is unacceptable, that their philosophy is contrary to the norms of the civilised world, and that they should get with the programme.”

By inviting Hamas to Moscow, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is seen as trying to boost his country’s diplomatic clout in the Middle East, on the wane since the Soviet Union fell.

Russian analysts were sceptical of Moscow’s ability to persuade Hamas and predicted that the talks would lead nowhere.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the foreign policy magazine Russia in Global Affairs, said: “Hamas won’t listen to Russia because Moscow has no real levers of influence over them.

“This is not the time of the Soviet Union, when we had real clout in the region.”

South Africa on Thursday joined the growing list of countries inviting Hamas leaders for talks, raising Israeli concerns that the international front against the movement is crumbling.

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