Russian FM meets Hamas leader, offers help toward statehood
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Russian FM meets Hamas leader, offers help toward statehood

Sergey Lavrov says Moscow supports initiatives seeking a ‘permanent’ home for Palestinians, invites Mashaal to Russia for more talks

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and others wait for a P5+1 meeting at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 28, 2015. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and others wait for a P5+1 meeting at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 28, 2015. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Khaled Mashaal, the exiled leader of the Hamas terror group, in Doha Monday and offered to help the Palestinians in their pursuit of statehood.

“We would like to see the Palestinians — all of them — have their permanent home,” Lavrov said, according to Russian media reports, adding that Moscow would be working toward that goal.

“We hope that with assistance from Russia and the whole world, this dream will come true,” Mashaal responded.

During the meeting, the two discussed the possibility of reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and what Mashaal termed Israel’s “violation of Christian and Muslim holy sites.”

Mashaal also presented Lavrov with a survey showing the living conditions of Gaza residents one year after the group’s devastating war with Israel.

Lavrov invited Mashaal to Moscow to continue the discussion of the Palestinian statehood initiatives.

Russia was a part of the P5+1 negotiating teams that reached an agreement with Tehran aiming to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for economic sanctions relief.

Lavrov is in Qatar to hold a series of meetings as part of wider attempt by world leaders to allay Gulf fears that the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers signed last month could embolden Iran as a military aggressor in the region.

Lavrov and Mashaal have met a number of times over the last decade, and in 2010 Moscow advocated for the inclusion of Hamas in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Despite Moscow’s ties with Hamas, Russia maintains a warm relationship with the group’s political rival, the Palestinian Authority, and its Western-backed president, Mahmoud Abbas.

While in Doha, Lavrov is expected to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary State John Kerry to discuss Syria. The three-way meeting is unusual, particularly as Russia has been a prime backer of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Saudi Arabia and the United States have been calling for his removal.

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