Russian Foreign Minister Meets Hamas Leader, Invites Him to Moscow

Lavrov and Meshal discuss reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah; Palestinians see Russia as pivot in efforts to internationalize conflict.

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Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal talks during a news conference in Doha July 23, 2014.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal talks during a news conference in Doha July 23, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Qatar on Monday and invited him to visit Moscow, a Hamas official said.

Meshal, who is based in Doha, last travelled to Moscow in 2010, four years after his first official visit to the Russian capital.

Last April, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed in Moscow the possibility that Russia will host a summit of the different Palestinian factions, as part of the reconciliation efforts. At this stage, however, it isn't clear if the invitation extended to Meshal has been coordinated with Abbas.

In their meeting, Meshal and Lavrov discussed regional developments and the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, Qatar's news agency reported.

In a statement released in Gaza, the Hamas official said a delegation led by Meshal briefed Lavrov on conditions in the Gaza Strip, which the Islamist movement rules, in the aftermath of last summer's war with Israel.

Meshal also discussed with Lavrov "Zionist terrorism in the West Bank and its assaults on Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem", the official said, three days after an arson attack by suspected Jewish militants killed a Palestinian toddler.

Russia is one of the four international sponsors, along with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process opposed by Hamas. Peace talks have been suspended for more than a year.

Hamas is shunned in the West over its refusal to recognize Israel, accept existing Israeli-Palestinian interim peace deals and renounce violence. Russia says it should not be isolated.

The Palestinian leadership has been making efforts over the last year to foster closer ties with the Russians, following their disappointment with the peace talks with Israel brokered by the U.S. and handled by Secretary of State, John Kerry.

Lately, the Palestinians have been warming up to the idea of internationalizing the conflict, and consider Russia to be a pivot point in this endeavor. Russia has announced it will back any Palestinian motion in the UN based on the two-state solution.

At the same time, the Qatari foreign minister, Khalid al-Attiyah, who met with Kerry together with the Gulf Arab states' foreign ministers in Doha, said the Gulf must act to foster peace and stability in the Middle East, and mentioned the need for a diplomatic initiative to solve the Israeli-Palestinians conflict.

However, it is understood in Doha that the meeting with Kerry is mainly intended to alleviate concerns over the nuclear deal with Iran, and to discuss the Syrian civil war and the campaign against ISIS.

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