Russia hopeful Hamas will support peace road map

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov said on Tuesday he was hopeful after talks with Hamas in
Moscow this week that the militant Palestinian group would
endorse the Israeli-Palestinian “road map” peace accord.

Speaking at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, Lavrov said that “we … heard from
them that they would be ready to express their position on the
road map and to hopefully endorse the road map as drafted by
the Quartet without any reservations.”

The “road map” of steps toward a lasting peace between
Israel and the Palestinians was drawn up the so-called Quartet
of Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the
European Union.

Rice did not comment on Moscow’s discussions with Hamas but
she has said Washington will not deal with the militant group
unless it changes its negative policies toward Israel. The
group’s shock victory in elections in January derailed hopes of
new peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Hamas has said publicly it cannot recognize Israel’s
existence and therefore would not be party to agreements like
the road map, which requires the sides to take steps to reach a
negotiated settlement toward peace and Palestinian statehood.

The Russian foreign minister also said Hamas, which is
responsible for dozens of suicide bombings in Israel, was
prepared to consider joining an Arab plan proposed by Saudi
Arabia at an Arab League summit in March 2002.

Under that plan, Arab leaders offered normal relations with
Israel in return for withdrawal to its 1967 borders. Israel,
however, was lukewarm to that proposal.

Lavrov said Hamas agreed to respect the authority of
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party lost in
the January election.

The Quartet agreed in talks in London on January 30 that
aid to the Palestinians would be reviewed if Hamas did not
renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept previous
agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Lavrov said Hamas assured Russia that foreign assistance to
the Palestinians would be spent in a transparent manner and
promised to allow international monitors to ensure this.



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