Israeli Envoy Praises Russian Efforts to Reconcile PalestiniansBy and
Hamas must recognize Israel and opt for peace, ambassador says
Russia hosted rival Palestinian groups for talks this month
Israel’s ambassador to Russia praised the Kremlin for its efforts to broker reconciliation between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the militant Islamist group Hamas, saying a successful deal could have far-reaching, positive consequences.
Fatah and Hamas discussed forming a unity government and holding elections during three days of negotiations in Moscow earlier this month. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said any accord on Palestinian unity would endorse peace agreements that the Palestine Liberation Organization has signed with Israel.
“If Russia manages to transform Hamas into a pragmatic force, it could fundamentally change the situation,” the envoy, Gary Koren, said in an interview in Moscow on Wednesday. “We have strong doubts this will happen, but it’s worth a try.”
Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union, seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, leaving the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority governing only the West Bank. Abbas has made several unsuccessful attempts to heal the schism with Hamas, even signing a 2011 agreement in Cairo on a transition process that was supposed to lead to elections for a joint government but never materialized.
Israel expects Hamas to give up its weapons and enter into the peace process, Koren said.
“Now it’s clearly a terrorist organization, which is fiercely hostile and doesn’t recognize Israel under any borders,” he said.
Russia is striving to resolve the Syrian civil war together with Turkey and Iran, an effort that has left the U.S. on the sidelines. Moscow’s increased role in the region gives it leverage it could use to help the Palestinians overcome their differences, the Israeli ambassador said.
“Moscow has good cards to play because its position in the Middle East is much stronger than it was in the past,” Koren said.
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