Russia made a mistake inviting Hamas to Moscow Minister Katz
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                  Russia made a mistake inviting Hamas to Moscow Minister Katz

                  Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters

                  Russia made a mistake inviting Hamas to Moscow Minister Katz

                  14.02.2019, Israel and the World

                  Russia erred in inviting Hamas to take part in an intra-Palestinian forum in Moscow, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said on Wednesday.

                  Katz, a member of the security cabinet, reminded Russian journalists in comments that appeared in the Russian media that Hamas is an “Islamist terrorist organization that refuses any political settlement” with Israel.

                  “Russia, a country that is fighting radical Islamist terror everywhere, is making a mistake in giving legitimacy to this organization,” he said.

                  Wednesday is the final day of a meeting Moscow is hosting – the third of its kind since 2011 – of all Palestinian factions in the hope of reaching a “road map” to unity. The dialogue is being held by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the same institute where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was once a doctoral student.

                  The Hamas delegation is led by Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, the deputy chief of Hamas’s Political Bureau, while the rival Fatah delegation is led by Azzam al-Ahmad, a PLO Executive Committee member and head of the Fatah Central Committee.

                  In addition to Hamas and Fatah, some 10 other Palestinian factions – including Islamic Jihad and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – took part in the talks, an apparent effort by Moscow to show that it can be an effective conflict mediator.

                  On Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin will host the leaders of Turkey and Iran to talk about the situation in Syria, and last week Moscow hosted representatives of the Taliban and opposition Afghan leaders for talks.

                  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to Moscow on February 21 to meet with Putin.

                  The Russian Foreign Ministry said the purpose of the Palestinian conference is to provide the various factions “with [a] favorable environment so that they can directly, constructively and without external interference discuss all issues of interest and problems that stand in the way of restoring unity in the Palestinian ranks. We believe this event is important and timely, especially given the recent aggravation of the disputes between the main Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas.”

                  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met the group on Tuesday and launched into an attack on the yet unseen American peace plan.

                  “Unfortunately, the current situation in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement is rather bleak and disquieting,” he said. “We see the greatest danger in the stance of the United States which is aimed at promoting unilateral approaches without accounting for the views of other international community members, scrapping essential, key and fundamental international legal instruments for resolving the Palestinian issue. Our US colleagues are bluntly putting forward new recipes in an attempt to resolve this issue, and have for more than two years now been promising to come up with the ‘deal of the century.’”

                  Lavrov said that according to Russian information, “this future ‘deal’ will destroy everything that has been accomplished so far. Judging by what we hear from those who are familiar with the unilateral American initiatives and efforts, the issue is about a totally different goal than creating a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with possible equivalent [land] exchanges and the capital in east Jerusalem.”

                  Lavrov said that the internal Palestinian divide has “created pretexts for advancing a policy aimed at destroying generally accepted settlement parameters.”

                  BY HERB KEINON