[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006, 17:10 GMT
Russia-Hamas talks anger Israel
Hamas supporters at a rally in Gaza City
Hamas is viewed as a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU
Israel has criticised Russia's decision to invite Hamas leaders to Moscow for talks, following the militant group's victory in Palestinian elections.

Israeli cabinet minister Meir Shitrit accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "stabbing Israel in the back".

He said the move gave legitimacy to Hamas - considered to be a terrorist group by Israel and Western countries.

Russian officials said Mr Putin wanted to engage Hamas to persuade the group to give up its radical policies.

"I wonder what Putin would say if we invited the Chechens here and talked to them," Mr Shitrit told Israel Radio, in reaction to Mr Putin's invitation to Hamas issued in Spain on Thursday.

Israel has said it will not negotiate with Hamas until it recognises Israel's right to exist, renounces terror and accepts the Middle East peace process.

'Looking for solutions'

According to Russian officials, the aim of the Moscow talks would be to explain the approaches the so-called Middle East Quartet - made up of the US, EU, UN and Russia - recently agreed on in London.

Russia's special envoy to the Middle East said Moscow would seek to impress the "importance of realism" on Hamas in its relations with Israel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news conference in Madrid
Mr Putin said Hamas came to power via legitimate means

"What we want is for [Hamas] to respect previous agreements and that there should be no terrorist acts.

"And, of course, they must move towards the recognition of Israel's right to exist," Aleksandr Kalugin was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said Hamas leaders were open to talks with all countries.

"Our leadership will travel to Islamic and Arab countries and to the communist countries to talk about the internal situation among the Palestinian people," he said.

The US and EU - who both classify Hamas as a terrorist group - have ruled out any dealings with the group until it renounces violence against Israel.

Until now, Russia has adhered to the quartet's common line, but Mr Putin's comments have sparked off speculation over whether Russia's policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has changed, the BBC's Steven Eke says.

With Hamas' electoral victory in January, Mr Putin may simply have perceived an opportunity to step in - and re-assert his country's influence - while others were considering how to respond, our correspondent says.

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy




The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific