MOSCOW, (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday told Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal it will try to influence Western powers into lifting an aid embargo on the Palestinian administration.
Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations make up the Quartet of Middle East mediators. Western powers cut off direct aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power in a January 2006 election.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Russia fully supported a Mecca agreement between Hamas and the rival Fatah movement to form a unity government earlier this month as a key peace initiative in the region. “We think the participants in Mecca showed wisdom, prudence and responsibility before the Palestinian people,” Lavrov said at talks with Meshaal. “We strive for the international community to support this process and make it irreversible, including efforts to help lift the blockade.”
Lavrov avoided saying explicitly what Russia intended to do to persuade Western nations to lift the economic embargo.
Russia is the only member of the Quartet which maintains relations with Hamas after it took over the Palestinian government. It has positioned itself as a bridge between Hamas and Western powers.
Moscow, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, shares the Quartet’s demands on Hamas to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals. But Russia has been critical of direct punitive measures such as the embargo.
Meshaal, addressing Lavrov, praised Russia’s stand on the issue. “We highly regard the brave steps of Russia which has invited us here today,” he said.