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Russia Pledges to Help Hamas Secure Political, Economic Support


Russia says it supports the lifting of political and economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic militant group Hamas over its refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. The offer of support came during a final day of talks in Moscow with the exiled political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal. VOA's Lisa McAdams is in the Russian capital with details.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow supports the Palestinian power-sharing agreement that has been reached between Hamas and the rival Fatah party because he said it shows wisdom, reason and responsibility. Lavrov told Meshaal during their talks in Moscow Tuesday that he could count on Russia's continued support.

Lavrov said Russia would be pushing the other members of the so-called Middle East Quartet, the United States, European Union and United Nations to support the power-sharing process agreed to during crisis talks in Mecca earlier this month. Lavrov said support from the Quartet should include the lifting of international sanctions, imposed after Hamas won last year's Palestinian election.

The other members of the Quartet have demanded that any new Palestinian government recognize Israel's right to exist, before the sanctions can be lifted - a condition Hamas continues to resist. The Quartet also wants Hamas to renounce violence and agree to adhere to past peace agreements.

For his part, Meshaal thanked Russia for taking what he called the brave step in hosting a meeting with a Hamas leader. Russia last hosted a Hamas delegation in 2006, a move that was sharply criticized by Israel.

Meshaal also thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his recent speech in Munich, during which he criticized the United States for making what he called unilateral foreign policy moves. The speech sparked a good deal of comment in the days that followed and was widely viewed as part of a long-standing effort by Russia to raise its status in world affairs like the Middle East.

Tuesday's talks secure Russia's place in the spotlight - as the sole supporter of Hamas - heading into the next round of talks scheduled by the Quartet for March 13.