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Russia In Favor Of Lifting Palestinian Aid Embargo --> Mish'al (left) and Lavrov in Moscow today (epa) February 27, 2007 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow will push for the lifting of an international aid embargo against the Palestinian Authority.

Lavrov spoke at a meeting with Hamas political leader Khalid Mish'al in Moscow. Lavrov said Russia would appeal to the international community to make the Middle East peace process "irreversible" and to "end the blockade."

Mish'al was in Moscow to press for Russia's support on a power-sharing deal between Hamas and the rival Fatah faction and for the aid embargo to be lifted.

Lavrov also praised a deal to form a unity government between Mish'al's Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas' Fatah movement. The two sides reached the deal in Mecca on February 8.

"We believe that the participants in the Mecca talks [between Fatah and Hamas] showed wisdom, common sense and, most importantly, responsibility toward the Palestinian people. And we actively support this development, and we are making efforts to ensure that the international community supports this process, makes it irreversible, and takes steps to lift the blockade against the Palestinian territories," Lavrov said.

However, Mish'al said Hamas is not prepared to recognize Israel -- a key condition for lifting the embargo.

The European Union meanwhile dampened expectations of a swift resumption of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority. Speaking today in Jerusalem, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that the Palestinian unity government will be judged by its actions.

The Quartet for Middle East Peace (the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States) cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power in January 2006.

The Quartet says the Palestinian government must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and honor previous peace agreements before aid can be restored.

Russia is the only member of the Quartet of Mideast negotiators to have diplomatic ties with Hamas.

(compiled from agency reports)