A delegation of Palestinian Hamas leaders arrived in Moscow Monday to seek support for creating a Palestinian state and restoring international funding.
Political leader Khaled Mashaal and his aides will spend three days in Moscow lobbying Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and possibly President Vladimir Putin to have international aid restored, and for direct talks on creating a state, the Novosti news agency reported.
Mashaal was critical of the negotiating group known as the Quartet -- Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations -- for targeting the 13-month-old Hamas government, United Press International reports.
Russia is the only member of the Middle East quartet, also made up of the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, which maintains ties with the Islamist group after it took over the Palestinian government last year.
Russia shares the quartet's demands on Hamas to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals.
But Moscow wants Hamas to be engaged in dialogue rather than isolated and has been critical of the Western aid embargo introduced after the group's election victory last year, Reuters reports.
The U.S. and Israel are backing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (of the Fatah faction) as a so-called "moderate" force in the power struggle with Hamas. That support includes the promise of U.S. financial aid for Abbas. Israel has allowed the transfer of weapons to forces loyal to Abbas.
But three weeks ago in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Abbas and his Fatah faction made a deal with Hamas to form a national unity government, a development that has raised questions about the new government's suitability as a negotiating partner.
The agreement to form a unity government was intended to stop internal Palestinian bloodshed and to break the international boycott against the P.A., but it makes no mention of recognizing Israel or halting terrorism. The agreement only hinted at recognizing previous agreements and it did not say that the new unity government would abide by them.
Hamas, on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, openly calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian Islamic state in its place, CNSNews.com reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to go to the 77th UN General Assembly in September