Meshal and Abbas Nov. 24, 2011 (AFP Photo / Hamas)
Khaled Meshal and Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 24, 2011. Photo by AFP Photo / Hamas
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AP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) at a press conference on Syria in Cairo, November 4, 2012. Photo by AP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that the Palestinian issue must remain a top priority and should not be neglected as a result of the upheavals of the Arab Spring.

Speaking after a meeting with the deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, in Cairo, Lavrov clarified that Moscow thinks Hamas can play an important role in advancing the Palestinian issue.

"We believe the Palestinian issue cannot be solved without Palestinian unity, and the same goes for solving the entire Middle East conflict."

The meeting between the two officials is considered unusual. High-level Russian officials have met with senior Hamas members in the past, but not recently. This is also the first time the Russian foreign minister has met with Abu Marzouk as a representative of Hamas. Until now, such meetings were always held with Khaled Meshal, Hamas' outgoing political bureau head.

Also on Monday, Lavrov told Egypt's al-Ahram daily that Moscow is continuing to supply arms to Syria under Soviet-era commitments meant for defense against external threats. However he noted that this does not translate into Russian support for President Bashar Assad, Russia's foreign minister said to al-Ahram.

"We do not side with any faction in Syria's internal battle," Lavrov was quoted as saying. "As for the Russian-Syrian technical military cooperation, it aims to support Syria's defense capabilities in the face of external political threat, and not to back Bashar Assad."