A top Hamas official said Monday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has pledged Moscow's support if the Palestinians seek recognition as a United Nations member-state in September.
Lavrov, who hosted representatives of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas on Monday, did not comment directly Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk's remarks in public. He did, however, praise the power-sharing deal that U.S. President Barack Obama has called an "enormous obstacle" to Middle East peace.
"We very much value your agreement," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told members of Fatah, Hamas and other parties to the deal signed early this month in Cairo.
"All peoples need unity, not least the Palestinian people, who are justly seeking a solution to their task of creating a state," Lavrov said.
Israel and the United States have criticized the deal between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement and its Islamist rival Hamas, which they shun.
Obama said on Sunday that the agreement "poses an enormous obstacle to peace.
No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction."
A partner of the United States, the EU and the United Nations in the Middle East "quartet", Moscow has made a point of calling for the inclusion of Hamas in diplomacy, hosting its leaders and saying isolating it is counterproductive.
Lavrov on Monday also welcomed the Palestinian plans for elections in October. The Palestinian Authority recently postponed the local balloting, which had been scheduled for July, gaining more time to organize voting in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Fatah and Hamas have yet to reach a deal setting up a new government, and the choice of a prime minister could help increase Western support for the reconciliation deal.
Marzouk said the factions would hold further talks on candidates early next week and would announce the name of a new prime minister in early June, state-run Russian news agency RIA reported.
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