Thursday, February 09, 2006

Putin Invites Hamas.

Friday 10 February 2006 — Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday invited Hamas for talks in Moscow after the group won last month’s Palestinian legislative elections.
Putin told a news conference in the Spanish capital, Madrid, that he intended to invite Hamas leaders to Russia, a member of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators along with the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.
Putin insisted Russia was right to back a dialogue with the group. “We are ready to work with all parties. Contacts with Hamas must continue,” Putin said on the second and final day of an official visit to Spain.
“Today we have to recognize that Hamas came through the doors of power via legitimate means and also respect the choice of the Palestinian people,” the Russian president said.
Moscow, unlike the United States and the European Union, does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Putin also stressed that it was time for the world to accept the poll result and work with a Hamas-led administration, even though the group has yet to accept key international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas responded by saying it would accept an invitation from Putin for talks in Moscow.
“We salute the Russian position and when an invitation is officially sent to us, we will accept it with the aim of strengthening our relations with the West and particularly with the Russian government,” Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said.
Abu Zuhri added that a visit by Hamas officials to Moscow would present an opportunity for the movement to “explain its position and its vision regarding Israel’s deceptive policies.” 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 Jan. 30, Quartet representatives called on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel if it participates in a Palestinian government.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that international aid could not flow to Hamas until it recognized 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.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed yesterday to Hamas to transform itself into a political party. “I urge Hamas to listen to the appeals not just from the Quartet but from other governments in the region asking it to transform itself into a political party,” the secretary-general told reporters at the United Nations.
“This is not the first time that an armed movement has transformed itself into a political party. There are lots of examples around the world,” Annan noted. “I urge Hamas to go the same route.”
In the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian diplomat became the most high-profile victim yesterday of a kidnapping spree when he was abducted by masked gunmen as he drove to work.
Two masked gunmen shot out the tires of a diplomatic vehicle and kidnapped Egypt’s military attaché to the Palestinian Authority, Hussam Almousaly, just outside the heavily guarded Egyptian mission.
The kidnapping of a diplomat from one of the Palestinians’ most important allies signaled that no one was immune from the increasing lawlessness in the Gaza Strip. Egypt, a frequent mediator between militants and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is seen by some as the only chance for maintaining some stability in Gaza.
The identity of the gunmen or their motive was not immediately known. Palestinian security officials set up roadblocks throughout Gaza to try to find the kidnappers.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was working to determine how the abduction happened and to “expedite the release of the kidnapped diplomat.”


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