Russia invites Hamas to come to Moscow for talks

Russia intends to become a leading mediator in the regulation of the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Russian President Putin informed reporters yesterday of his intention to invite the administration of the radical Palestinian group Hamas to come to Moscow for talks.

“We are going to invite the Hamas administration to Moscow in the near future,” Itar Tass quoted the Russian president as saying. Putin released the sensational statement on Thursday at a press conference in Madrid (the conference was devoted to results of the Russian-Spanish top level talks).

Putin stressed out that Hamas had come to power in Palestine by means of democratic elections. “One should respect the choice of the Palestinian nation. We have established a contact. The invitation will be sent out in the nearest future,” the president said.

According to Putin, one should look for compromising ways of regulating the conflict. Such a solution is supposed to be acceptable for the Palestinian Authority, Israel and other countries involved or interested in the ongoing standoff. “I do not think that Russia has retired from the regulation of the Mideastern conflict. Russia's Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been actively involved in the process,” Putin said.

”Burning bridges in politics is very simple, although it is not a very prospective thing to do,” Putin said. “This is the reason why Russia has not acknowledged Hamas a terrorist organization,” the president added. It is noteworthy that the administrations of Israel, the USA and the European Union think of Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has confirmed the sensational statement from President Putin. Alexander Kalugin, a spokesman for the department, said that Russia's contacts with Hamas would help the organization move forward to the realization of requirements from the international community. “It may also help maintain security talks with Israel,” the official added.

“We do not need contacts just for the sake of international contacts. It is extremely important to make Hamas negotiate and guarantee Israel's security,” Alexander Kalugin said.

Spokespeople for the Palestinian Authority administration said Thursday that they welcomed Russia’s position regarding the contacts with Hamas. “Putin's statement on the matter has confirmed Moscow's balanced approach to the regulation of the problem in the Middle East. Russia has always been standing for peace in the region,” an advisor of the Palestinian Embassy in Moscow Ahmed Muslih said.

Spokespeople for the Israeli Embassy in Moscow have not released any comments in connection with Putin's intention to negotiate with Hamas. They only set out a hope that Russia would continue following the line of the international mediators that urge the Palestinian leadership to acknowledge the State of Israel, turn down terrorism and observe all agreements between Palestine and Israel.

In the meantime, the leaders of Hamas have verbally agreed to accept Putin's invitation to come to Moscow for the talks. “If we receive an official invitation to visit Russia , we will accept it,” a high-ranking official of the movement in Gaza, Ismail Khania said.

Hamas's spokesman in Beirut Osama Hamdan stated that the administration of the Islamic movement welcomed Putin's position. “Russian politics has been balanced and reasonable. Moscow respects the democratic choice of the Palestinians. Russian politicians do not think that it would be correct to lay down conditions to the Palestinian government before it has even been formed.

Vladimir Putin stated at the annual press conference for Russian and foreign journalists that he disagreed with the point of view of Israel , the USA and the EU regarding the estimation of Hamas's activities. Putin's answer to the question from an Al-Jazeera correspondent about the Middle East after the victory of Hamas gave rise to a diplomatic scandal. Putin stated that Russia had never recognized Hamas a terrorist organization. On the other hand, Putin added, Russia could not approve and support everything that the organization does in the region. “Russia's position on Hamas differs from the one of the USA or Western Europe ,” Putin stated.

Israeli officials said that they could not understand Russia's position which supposedly gives a different definition of terrorism in various countries. “The terrorist acts conducted by Hamas have killed over 550 Israeli citizens, many of them of Russian origin. We do not understand the difference between a bus explosion in Jerusalem and a terrorist attack in Moscow or Beslan,” Israeli diplomats responded to Putin's above-mentioned answer to Al-Jazeera.

The group of international mediators (the USA , the EU, the UN and Russia) laid down three conditions to Hamas: to recognize Israel 's right for existence, end the armed struggle and follow all the previously signed agreement. Brussels and Washington will not negotiate with the new Palestinian government if it refuses to meet the three requirements.

Meanwhile, the US administration would like Russia to clarify all the points regarding the intention to invite Hamas to Moscow. Sean McCormack, a White House spokesman, stated that Washington was expecting Russia to support the requirements of the international community according to which Hamas is supposed to acknowledge Israel's right for existence.

Vladimir Isayev, the Deputy Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that Putin made a weighted statement. “There is no one to talk with in Palestine : the movement has not taken the form of a party yet. They were shocked to see how many seats they won in the Palestinian parliament. Once they formulate their official position and nominate leaders that will either continue talking about the destruction of Israel or express their readiness to acknowledge it then we will see which influence it may have on Russia's relations with the West and Israel,” the specialist said. “As for the comparison between Hamas and Chechen gunmen, this question is extremely complicated both for Russia and Israel. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe insists the Russian administration should negotiate with the Chechen terrorists. The Chechen terrorists have never been able to build anything. On the other hand, Hamas won the elections, but it has not become a party yet. However, if Hamas continues to search for external enemies, there will be nothing to discuss with them in this case,” Isayev said.

Sergei Mikheev, the Deputy Director of the Center for Political Technologies: “The necessity to establish relations with Hamas has been clear from the very beginning. Russia is not the only country in the world that does not see Hamas as a terrorist organization. There is an illusion in the West according to which free elections solve everything to the benefit of the pro-Western services. It happened on the opposite. The Western propaganda machine has been broken in Palestine . Israel may continue rejecting the power of Hamas. At the same time Israel , Russia and the West do not need a war in the Middle East. Islamic fundamentalism is popular in the Muslim world. One should not turn a blind eye on it,” the specialist concluded.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov