Avigdor Lieberman and Sergei Lavrov
Avigdor Lieberman and Sergei Lavrov in Jerusalem, June 29 ,2010. Photo by AP
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AP and Reuters
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Russian minister Sergey Lavrov Photo by AP and Reuters

An independent Palestinian State is not a possibility in the next two years, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said following a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

"There is absolutely no chance of reaching a Palestinian state before the year 2012," Lieberman said, adding that "one can dream and imagine, but we are far from reaching an agreement."

An apparent disagreement broke out between Lieberman and Lavrov  during their meeting in Jerusalem over Moscow's increased efforts to include Hamas in Mideast peace talks.

Last Month, the Foreign Ministry criticized Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's call to involve Hamas in the Mideast peace process, likening 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.

In Tuesday's meeting, Lieberman reportedly told Lavrov, who arrived in Israel on an official visit, that Israel opposed Russia's recent advances toward Hamas. Lavrov responded that it was impossible to ignore the Islamist organization's popularity amongst Palestinians, particularly in Gaza.

The reported closed-door disagreement quickly became a public one, as Lavrov openly defended his country's Middle East policy in the ensuing joint press conference with Lieberman, where he said that "Russia is doing the right thing by contacting Hamas," adding that "doing nothing would help no one."

"In all our talks with Hamas we have tried to convince them to switch to the political track, and support the Arab peace initiative," Lavrov said. Lieberman, in turn, dismissed the disagreement, saying that the fact that the two nations were conducting dialogue in the matter was no secret.

The two also reportedly differed on how to proceed with peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, with the Russian FM saying that negotiations must be advanced, adding that the way to do so was to form a joint commission which would also include representatives of the Quartet, and the Arab League."

Also on the subject of future peace talks, Lavrov said that despite obvious obstacles it is necessary to advance the peace process, adding that that solutions to facilitate the process have arrived.

"In the absence of progress in the political track extremist elements in the Palestinian nation will be strengthened," warned the Russian FM.

Responding to Lavrov's comments,  Lieberman defended Israel's efforts to conduct indirect negotiations with the Palestinians as a prelude to direct negotiations. However, he was pessimistic regarding the ability to reach an agreement.

At the close of the meeting Lieberman stated that there is no Israeli intent to continue the 10-month freeze on settlement construction after it expires in September, pointing out that Israel has made countless overtures to the Palestinians and now it is their turn to reciprocate. .