Delegates of the Hamas movement yesterday completed their visit to Moscow. Little has been made of the visit in the USA and Europe where politicians have not only reacted positively to the initiative taken by Russian diplomats, but have also confessed that they approve of the Russians taking on the role of mediators. Various Russian diplomats met the leaders of the Hamas movement, who recently secretly trained terrorists and today are preparing to create a government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs not only organized meetings with Sergei Lavrov and his deputy Alexander Saltanov, but also a representative of the legislative powers, the head of the Russian Solidarity and Cooperation Organization for Asia and Africa, the head of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Margelov and also leaders of the two main Russian parties, head of Mufti Sheik Rafil Gaynutdin and the Moscow and Russian patriarch Alexi Vtori. President Vladimir Putin did not take part in the talks even though he was the person who invited leaders of Hamas to Moscow. He informed American President George Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and stand-in head of Israel Ehud Olmert of the results of the talks with the Palestinians..
Nobody expected any great scandal to result from the trip to Russia by the leader of the Hamas movement Haled Mashal and his close associates. Sergei Lavrov announced at the end of the talks that “the Russian side put forward the agreed position of the four (Russia, the EU, the USA and the UN) about the necessity of fulfilling certain criteria, agreed by the quartet at the end of January.” The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the meeting a “step in the right direction.” The minister remarked that there was only a little more work needed before the renewal of talks with all the parties involved.
However, this step was sufficient for the result of the talks in Moscow to be deemed a success. The deputy of the American press department Adam Erly said it was good that the new Palestinian leadership had sent out a clear signal about its intention to follow the decided agreement.
The American administration is convinced that Moscow is on the same wave length as the other members of the “quartet” and is not engaging in any dangerous politics. “I think that the Russians have given a clear message that they are adhering to the aims of the quartet,” affirmed Adam Erly. Moreover, he spoke of a “united front” and “common goal” in relations with Hamas.
Vladimir Putin tried to underline the existence of an agreed plan when informing political leaders of the results of talks with Hamas. The USA and the EU still refuse to hold talks with the political movement. In a telephone conversation with the Russian President George Bush said that “it is important to keep up the quartet’s stance which demands that the movement ends its violence towards Israel and disarms.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chiraq support this view.
Israeli politicians have outlined their position towards the new Palestinian government. “The international community must demand that Hamas adhere to a number of principal conditions. Amongst these are the declaration of Israel ’s right to existence, fulfillment of all Israeli-Palestinian agreements and also a commitment to not engage in violence or terrorism,” announced European Foreign Minster Tzippy Livny.
The majority of Israeli politicians think that the visit of a Hamas delegation to Moscow was completely pointless. They believe that it has not done anything for Russia or the Islamic movement. A worker at the Israeli Institute for the fight against terrorism in Gertsliya, a retired high-ranking official in military intelligence Moshe Marzuk said, “I think that Russia ’s initiative is ill fated. In the first instance, inviting the leaders of a movement, which in many countries is considered a terrorist organization, taints Russia ’s image in the eyes of the international community. Secondly, the leaders of Hamas refuse to give up their radical position and this was known before the visit.” The head of the left-wing party “Avoda” announced, “Putin, in inviting the leaders of Hamas to Moscow , has sent out the message that the international community treats them as a legitimate political movement. This cannot be the case until the political movement changes its position towards Israel. If the president really wants to force the members of Hamas to change its position, the last thing that he should have done is invite terrorists to Moscow .”
It is noteworthy that supporters of Hamas in the Muslim world and in the Middle East have fairly quickly managed to justify the Israelis’ worst expectations. They appealed to the Palestinians to capitalize their gains and the invitation to Moscow can undoubtedly be considered a success. Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahri called on the Palestinian movement to “continue its armed struggle” and not to engage in peaceful relations with Israel, having called such relations ‘an agreement to surrender’”
The hard line adopted by Hamas and its allies is playing into the hands of acting Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, who intends to continue Ariel Sharon’s plan for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. It became clear yesterday that Olmert plans a new stage in the withdrawal; this time from the West Bank.
Translated by Michael Simpson