Russia urges 'dialogue' for Palestinian unity

August 1, 2007 - 0:0

MOSCOW (AFP) -- Russia on Monday called for dialogue between Fatah and Hamas as the two warring Palestinian factions separately sought Moscow's help in resolving their stand-off.

At a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ""stressed the need to restore Palestinian unity through dialogue between all political forces,"" the ministry said in a statement.
""This will create the right conditions for the renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process... the aim of which will be the creation of a sovereign, viable and unified Palestinian state,"" the statement said.
At the talks on Monday, Lavrov also pledged Russia's support for Abbas.
""We firmly support you as the lawful leader of all Palestinians and support all your efforts directed at... the achievement of unity among Palestinians,"" Lavrov said.
Abbas, who met President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, said at the start of the meeting with Lavrov that he would discuss with Putin how Russia ""can help us get out of the internal political deadlock.""
Speaking in Gaza on Monday, sacked Palestinian premier Ismail Haniya said that his Hamas movement would welcome Russian mediation ""to fill the gap between us and Fatah, to put an end to the crisis.""
But the new Abbas-backed prime minister of the Palestinian territories, Salam Fayyad, earlier ruled out any dialogue with Hamas so long as the movement maintains its takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Russia is the only member of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet that maintains ties with Hamas.
Russian analysts said one of the main reasons behind the three-day visit by Abbas to Russia, which began on Sunday, was to ask Moscow to break its diplomatic links with Hamas.
Russia hopes to play a key role as mediator while the ongoing battle for influence between Fatah and Hamas keeps Middle East peace efforts at crisis point, said the government-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.
""It's obvious that no agreement between Abbas and (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert can be fully carried out without including Hamas leaders in the negotiation process,"" the paper wrote.
""Now, it's Russia's turn to speak.... Bringing Hamas back to the negotiating table is entirely within Moscow's power.""
Putin has worked steadily to boost Russia's presence in the Middle East, though Russia's ties with Hamas -- including a Moscow visit by the group's chief Khaled Meshaal in February -- have been criticized in the West.
The Palestinian president's visit comes amid efforts to inject new energy into the Middle East Quartet, which recently appointed former British prime minister Tony Blair as its envoy.
The Quartet includes Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
This week's talks also precede a Middle East conference scheduled for September at the initiative of U.S. President George W. Bush