Russian weapons supplies to Palestinians to be agreed with Israel

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday that any Russian weapons supplies to the Palestinians must be agreed with Israel and transported through Israeli territory, the Interfax news agency reported. The chief of the general staff, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, on Thursday had held out the possibility of weapons deliveries to the Palestinians after next month's talks with Hamas leaders in Moscow .

"Any supply of (military) technology to the Palestinians can be fulfilled only with Israel 's agreement and through its territory," Ivanov told reporters during a visit to a military unit in the Moscow region, Interfax reported. "This question is being considered only provisionally," he was quoted as saying.

Interfax said Thursday that the Palestinian Authority plans to buy two Mi-17 transport helicopters and 50 armored personnel carriers from Russia . Meanwhile, Russia 's special Mideast envoy said Friday that Russian officials would make no demands of Hamas during next month's meeting, Interfax reported.

"During our meeting, we will not put forth any demands. They themselves should take a decision on steps that meet the interests of the Palestinian people and help resolve the issues on the agenda of Palestinian-Israeli relations," Alexander Kalugin was quoted as saying.

The Hamas delegation is scheduled to visit Moscow during the first week of March, and the Russian side will set out the position approved by the so-called quartet of Mideast peace negotiators, Kalugin was quoted as saying. "We just want them to transform themselves in a positive manner. We are not going to sit at the table banging our fists; they know what the international community wants them to do," he said.

President Vladimir Putin's invitation to the militant group, made at a news conference in Spain earlier this month, was the latest bid by Moscow to invigorate its role in Mideast peacemaking after years of taking a back seat to the United States . The invitation stunned Israel and other nations.

Hamas's parliamentary victory prompted threats from the United States and European Union to cut off massive aid to the Palestinians unless the group responsible for scores of suicide attacks and designated a terrorist organization by many Western nations recognizes Israel and renounces violence.

But Russia 's ambassador to the United Nations, Andrei Denisov, told the Russian daily Izvestia earlier this week that cutting off international aid to the Palestinians would be "counterproductive."

"In history there are many examples of radicals coming to power and adopting a more realistic and constructive stance," Denisov was quoted as saying. "We all hope that Hamas will show sense." Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out talks with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel 's right to exist and accepts past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

A Western diplomat said Thursday that the Russians had promised to deliver "a very straight and direct message in keeping with the quartet framework." Russia 's failure to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization has raised questions of double standards, considering its insistence that no negotiations be held with Chechen militants. Israel's Foreign Ministry has distributed frame-grabs from videos that allegedly prove not only a shared commitment to violence between Hamas and the Chechens, but also Hamas support for the rebels who have been fighting Russian forces for more than a decade, reports the AP.


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