Russia vows further links with Hamas - Lavrov
Russia will continue contacts with radical Palestinian group Hamas as part of efforts to revive Middle East talks, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday, RIA Novosti reported.
"We are positive that all parties to the conflict should be engaged in dialogue. We will continue contacts with Hamas," Lavrov told a news briefing. "Only a united Palestine can ensure proper conditions for the talks that I hope [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas will eventually resume with Israel."
Hamas is in control of the Gaza Strip after kicking Abbas's Fatah party out of the enclave in the summer of 2007 following a series of armed clashes. Fatah now governs the West Bank. The groups are holding reconciliation talks mediated by Egypt, which proposed presidential and parliamentary elections in both regions in the summer.
Lavrov urged efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.
Settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, has been the main obstacle to reviving peace talks with the Palestinians, which were halted over a year ago.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu announced a freeze on construction late last year, but the Palestinian National Authority refuses to return to the negotiations until the construction is completely halted.
Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist and opposes Abbas's efforts to negotiate a permanent peace deal.