Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hamas refuses to soften in Moscow

Hamas' leader ruled out any softening of the militant Palestinian group's hostility to Israel after high-profile talks in Moscow at which Russia called on it recognize the Jewish state and abandon violence.
Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal welcomed the outcome of the meetings Friday with Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, saying at a news conference they were "good, constructive and open." He did not give details.
But a statement from the Foreign Ministry after the meeting said that the Russian side had urged Hamas to endorse the "rejection of violence as a means of obtaining political goals," existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements and "recognition of Israel's right to exist."
Mashaal in turn struck an uncompromising stance, saying the Jewish state must first withdraw from territories occupied in 1967 and allow the return of Palestinian refugees among other conditions if it wants peace. That statement - while sticking to Hamas' tradition of ambiguity - could be significant, because Hamas in the past has called for Israel's elimination altogether.
"If Israel officially announces its readiness to withdraw from all territories occupied in 1967, the return of Palestinian refugees, the closure of settlements, the dismantling of the dividing wall, the release of all prisoners, then our movement will take a big step toward peace," he said at a news conference. "There can be no peace if the occupation continues."
He also ruled out any negotiations with the current Israeli government. "Yasser Arafat sat at negotiations with Israel for 10 years. The result is that Israel killed Yasser Arafat," he said, referring to the late Palestinian leader.
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