Russian anti-terror envoy: Isolating Hamas would be counterproductive

By The Associated Press

Haaretz

Shvat 21, 5766

President Vladimir Putin's envoy on international terrorism stressed Saturday that Russia believes it would be counterproductive for the world to isolate Hamas following the militant group's victory in the Palestinian elections, the Interfax news agency reported.

"It is counterproductive to close the door and say 'no' in advance," Interfax quoted Anatoly Safonov, Putin's envoy for international cooperation in fighting terrorism and transnational crime, as saying.

Putin stunned Israel and other nations by inviting Hamas leaders to Moscow for talks. Safonov echoed comments from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Friday that Russia would use the meeting - expected in early March - to try to bring Hamas into the Mideast peace process.

"It would probably be absolutely correct to give the new Palestinian authorities the chance to show themselves in a particular situation and not to close the door on them," Safonov was quoted as saying. "It's necessary to talk, help and encourage a path that may be advantageous to everybody."

Safonov said Russia has emphasized that the Palestinian authorities must guarantee Israel's security and rule out unacceptable methods in attaining their goals, Interfax reported.

"Hamas has a political and a combat wing. The second one uses methods and practices that we don't accept," he said.

Russia's top Mideast envoy Alexander Kalugin, meanwhile, said the formation of the new Palestinian government would not affect the planned talks because it will probably not be completed until after the visit.