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Israel Angry Over Russia's Invitation to Hamas for Talks

Israel has sharply criticized a decision by Russia to invite the Islamic militant group Hamas to Moscow, following its victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections last month. Israel says Russia's position is harming the global war on terrorism.

Israel is angry over these remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Putin said Russia does not see Hamas as a terrorist organization, and he invited leaders of the group to visit Moscow. Russian officials say they would call on Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist.

But Israel lodged a protest with Moscow, saying that Russia has broken an international consensus to isolate Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the United States. Israel has accused Russia of granting legitimacy to a terrorist group responsible for suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

"I think this is a very grave development," Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio. "It breaks the circle of deligimitization that we have to keep around the Hamas, who is committed to our destruction."

Along with the U.S., European Union and U.N., Russia is part of the "Quartet" of international powers mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel said Russia should abide by the Quartet's decision not to deal with Hamas unless it moderates its views.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Quartet's position has not changed.

"And that is that Hamas has some decisions to make: they must recognize the state of Israel, renounce terror and live up to the international obligations that the Palestinian Authority has signed up to," he said. "As a member of the Quartet, we would certainly expect that Russia would deliver that same message."

Hamas has rejected those demands, but at the same time, it seeks international legitimacy. And Russia seems prepared to provide it in the form of opening a dialogue. Hamas leaders hope other nations will follow suit. They say they would be delighted to visit Moscow.