Hamas supporters pictured during January's elections to the Palestinian parliament (file photo) (epa)
10 February 2006 -- The French government today officially backed Russia's decision to invite leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas to Moscow for talks on the Middle East peace process.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier today that Russia will use a planned meeting with Hamas representatives to urge recognition of Israel and support for Middle East peace.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said the French government believes the Russian move could help advance the peace process.
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 so far has rejected calls to change its positions.