Report: Russia seeks Israeli consent for sending arms to PA
PA plans to buy two helicopters, 50 APCs from Russia; Hamas leaders may go to Moscow in March.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday that Moscow must get Israel's consent for any Russian weapons supplied to the Palestinians and said the arms should be transported through Israeli territory, the Interfax news agency reported.
Russia's chief of the general staff, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, on Thursday had held out the possibility of weapons deliveries to the Palestinians after next month's talks with Hamas leaders in Moscow.
"Any supply of [military] technology to the Palestinians can be fulfilled only with Israel's agreement and through its territory," Ivanov told reporters during a visit to a military unit in the Moscow region, Interfax reported.
"This question is being considered only provisionally," he was quoted as saying.
Interfax said Thursday that the Palestinian Authority plans to buy two Mi-17 transport helicopters and 50 armored personnel carriers from Russia.
Baluyevsky said the helicopters would be unarmed, and were intended for transporting leaders. "Armored equipment is also intended for stabilizing the situation," Interfax quoted him as saying.
The announcement on soliciting Israel's agreement came as Israeli officials continued to express their objections to Russia's planned meeting with Hamas officials.
Russia announced Thursday it had agreed in principle on a meeting with Hamas officials in Moscow in early March.
Hamas' political chief Khaled Meshal, meanwhile, was holding talks with Turkish officials in Ankara.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abudullah Gul said Thursday he had clarified to Hamas that Turkey stood firmly behind the Quartet's condition to withhold aid from a Hamas-led Palestinian government unless the Islamist group renounces violence and abandons its commitment to Israel's destruction.
A Hamas delegation headed by Meshal arrived in Turkey on Thursday for the unexpected talks. This was the first visit by senior members of the militant organization to a non-Arab country since it won the PA elections on January 25.
An official in Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's office said the PM would not meet Hamas leaders.
"It is out of the question that the prime minister hold talks with the Hamas delegation," the official said.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni attempted to downplay the importance of Thursday's meeting in an interview with Israel Radio, but nevertheless, said that Israel was opposed to the development.
Turkish government sources said the Hamas delegation would hold talks with Foreign Ministry officials and members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The sources said the AKP, not the Foreign Ministry, had invited Hamas.
The Russian initiative has seemed to open a crack in the Quartet of Middle East mediators that also includes the UN, European Union and United States.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week that Moscow agreed Hamas must commit to seeking peace with Israel to win international acceptance.
"We will work toward Hamas accepting the Quartet's positions. This is not just the Quartet's opinion, but also that of the majority of nations, including Arab nations," he said after talks with EU leaders in Vienna.
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