Russian invite to Hamas infuriates Israel | india | Hindustan Times
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Russian invite to Hamas infuriates Israel

An Israeli Cabinet minister on Friday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "stabbing Israel in the back" for inviting Hamas militants to Moscow.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 10:59 IST
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An Israeli Cabinet minister on Friday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "stabbing Israel in the back" for inviting Hamas militants to Moscow following their decisive victory in Palestinian elections.

The invitation -- Russia's latest attempt to assert itself in West Asian diplomacy -- represented a break with the US and European position of not dealing with Hamas until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist. Putin further angered Israel on Thursday by saying he did not consider Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide attacks, to be a terrorist group. In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday to send a clear, strong message in any meetings with Hamas officials that the militant group must stop terror attacks on Israel.

Russia is a member of the so-called Quartet of West Asian peace negotiators, along with the US, the European Union and the United Nations. The Quartet is the main sponsor of the "road map" peace plan, which calls on the Palestinians to disarm militant groups like Hamas as a step toward creating an independent state. Sheetrit said the Russian invitation tainted Moscow's attempts at being a Mideast mediator.

"Russia should be removed from any negotiations in the Middle East," said Sheetrit, who is a close ally of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front-runner in Israeli elections scheduled for March.

Late Friday, Sheetrit also took aim at France, warning that its support for the Russian initiative amounted to a "serious crack" in the international opposition to Hamas.

"Perhaps they are following Russia," he told Channel 10 TV. "This is totally unacceptable."

Israel has a complex history with Russia. The former Soviet Union supported Israel in its early years, but relations soon deteriorated as Israel increasingly allied itself with the United States. Moscow cut ties with Israel at the time of the 1967 Middle East War, and backed Israel's Arab enemies for decades. The Soviets also barred Jews from leaving the country, jailing many who sought to emigrate to Israel.