Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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AP
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkish President Abdullah Gul on May 12, 2010. Photo by AP

The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday slammed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's call to involve Hamas in the Mideast peace process, and likened the organization to the Islamist Chechen rebels.

"Hamas is exactly like the Chechen terrorists and [Hamas chief Khaled] Meshal is exactly like Chechen leader Shamil Basayev," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Developed countries cannot separate terrorists into good ones and bad ones based on their geographic location," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Hamas murdered thousands of innocent people, many of them immigrants from the former USSR and even Russian citizens."

"Just as Israel unconditionally supported Russia in her struggle against Chechen terror, we expect equal treatment in our struggle against Hamas."

The Foreign Ministry also said that it was very disappointed that the Russian president met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus on Tuesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkey and Russia said the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas should not be excluded from the Middle East peace process after this week's launch of indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

Hamas, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has been shunned by the West for refusing to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

At a joint news conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Turkish capital Ankara, President Abdullah Gul said peace could not be achieved if Hamas was not involved.

"Nobody should be excluded when these talks are held. Unfortunately the Palestinians are divided in two. They must be united and to unite them there must be talks with both sides. The Hamas side won elections in Gaza and so cannot be ignored," Gul said.

Hamas' takeover in Gaza left the Palestinians' mainstream Fatah movement in control only in the West Bank. Fatah is the dominant party in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which entered into the 1990s interim peace accords.

Gul added: "When Turkey talked [with Hamas] it faced threats but it emerged that Turkey was right. You cannot achieve peace by excluding people."

Turkey, a Muslim but secular state, has traditionally been an intermediary between Israel and the Arab world and has cooperated closely with Israel on military matters.

Relations between them have cooled amid a series of spats triggered by Israel's offensive in Palestinian-ruled Gaza at the end of 2008, which prompted repeated fierce criticism from Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

On the Palestinian conflict, Medvedev said "we are facing a human tragedy in Gaza."

Russia has been building up its influence as a Middle East mediator, pledged its assistance in pushing the region toward peace.

Turkey is also pursuing a similar policy and mediated between Syria and Israel.