JERUSALEM, Feb 9 (Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to invite to Hamas leaders to visit Moscow was met today by surprise in Israel, which does not see the Islamic militant group as a peace partner. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel would not negotiate with the group sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state until it ”recognises Israel’s right to exist, renounces terror and accepts the Middle East peace process”.
Hamas, which has carried out more than 60 deadly suicide bombings against Israelis since the start of a Palestinian uprising in 2000, won a crushing victory over President Mahmoud Abbas’s long-dominant Fatah group in a January 25 election. Putin told a news conference in the Spanish capital today that he intended to invite Hamas leaders to Russia, a member of the Quartet of West Asia peace mediators along with the United States, the United Nations and the European Union. A senior Hamas official welcomed any such invitation.
But Israel was surprised. ”(Russia) agreed to the Quartet’s statements, so people in Jerusalem are raising an eyebrow — what’s going on here?” an Israeli government source said.At a meeting in London on January 30, Quartet representatives called on Hamas to renounce violence and recognise Israel if it participates in a Palestinian government. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told a news conference after the session the international community should be able to work with Hamas if the group ”transforms itself from an armed movement into a political party respecting the rules of the game”.
Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyah said its leaders would visit Moscow if they received an official invitation. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that international aid could not flow to Hamas until it recognised Israel’s right to exist. The group, which is expected to form a new Palestinian government soon, has said it would ask Arab and Muslims states for political and financial support to counter such threats