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Russia To Urge Hamas To Recognize Israel

President Vladimir Putin (left) with Defense Minister Ivanov (file photo) (epa) 10 February 2006 -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says Russia will use a planned meeting with Hamas representatives to urge recognition of Israel and support for the Middle East peace process.

Ivanov said Hamas's election victory in January was a fact and said that he expects that the world's powers will deal with Hamas. He included in that number a quartet of countries -- the European Union, Russia, the United States -- and the United Nations that are leading efforts to promote a peace process.

"I would dare to predict that sooner or later many leading countries of the world, including members of the Quartet, will in one way or another establish contacts with the Hamas movement," Ivanov said, "if only to explain their attitude to the Middle East settlement process to Hamas leaders, not through journalists or megaphones, but in a calm atmosphere."

Ivanov was speaking at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Italy. Russia, which is itself not a member of NATO, is attending a simultaneous session of the NATO-Russia Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 9 February said he would invite Hamas leaders to come to Moscow.

Israel responded angrily to the invitation, while the United States said it was asking Russia for clarification.

The United States and the European Union have listed Hamas as a terrorist group and banned all contact with its leaders unless they renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.

Hamas has so far rejected calls for it to change its political position.


RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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