The Kremlin is changing its position. “Hamas Political Bureau Director Khaled Mashal is not welcome in Moscow,” a government official told the Israeli Ma’ariv daily, “if he wishes, Mashal can visit as a tourist and even go to Red Square, but not have any state meetings.”
Relations between Russia and Hamas have cooled in the last few months.
“In wake of the Kremlin’s disappointment over Hamas’ behavior,” the source explained.
In the background stands Russia’s failure to get Hamas to accept the Quartet’s three conditions: forswear terror, recognize Israel and recognize previous agreements.
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“Our main disappointment in Hamas is that it is not willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” said the source.
In the second half of 2008, Mr. Mashal asked at least twice to meet with officials in Moscow, but was turned down. The last time Mr. Mashal went to Moscow was in early 2006 when he was welcomed with great honor at the Kremlin, despite criticism from Israel and the U.S.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Israeli counterparts in his visit this week to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) that Hamas would not be invited to the peace conference that Russia is planning in a few months.
“Only those who attended Annapolis will take part,” Mr. Lavrov said, in a direct message to Hamas.
Officials in Jerusalem are pleased by the Russian position.
They said, “Russia has been trying for some time to moderate Hamas, to no avail, and they are frustrated.” They said, “Russia has failed time after time in its attempt to persuade Hamas to agree either to little things or big things, such as the Egyptian compromise proposal last December on the ‘tahdia’ (quieting) or Egyptian attempts to reconciliate (sic) the Palestinian factions.”
However, there is not a complete break and Russia continues to maintain channels of dialogue with Hamas. High-ranking Russian government sources have met frequently with Mr. Mashal in Damascus in the course of visits to the region.
These have included Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com