Hamas chief will meet Russian FM in Moscow next month, official says
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Hamas chief will meet Russian FM in Moscow next month, official says

Kremlin’s intention to advance reconciliation between terror group and Fatah said to be a ‘major reason’ behind Haniyeh’s rare trip abroad

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

In this December 12, 2014, file photo, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas terror group, at the main road in Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
In this December 12, 2014, file photo, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas terror group, at the main road in Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on January 15, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters over the weekend, according to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency.

Since he became the Hamas terror group’s political chief in May 2017, Haniyeh has not traveled abroad with the exception of several trips to Cairo.

“The meeting with Haniyeh is scheduled for January 15,” Bogdanov said, adding that the Hamas chief and Lavrov will discuss “the situation in the Middle East, the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip, and the task of restoring the Palestinian unity.”

On November 28, Haidar Rashid, Russia’s representative in Ramallah, delivered an invitation to visit Moscow to Haniyeh, according to Hamas’s official website.

Russia’s intention to advance reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah was a “major reason” for its recent decision to invite Haniyeh to the Russian capital, sources told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arabic newspaper, in mid-December.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends the Mediterranean dialogues conference in Rome, November 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The two rival parties have been at loggerheads since 2007 when Hamas forcibly ousted the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip.

Over the past several years, Hamas and Fatah have agreed to a number of reconciliation deals, but have failed to implement them.

Israeli government officials have lodged furious protests with Russia over its invitation to the Hamas leader, Channel 10 reported on December 18, citing Israeli officials.

But Russian officials rejected Israel’s objections, noting that the Jewish state was itself talking to the terror group, the Channel 10 report added.

For the past several months, Israel has engaged in indirect talks with Hamas, mediated by Egypt and other international parties, about Gaza.

Palestinians wave the national flag during a demonstration in Gaza City on December 3, 2017, in support of the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Russia informed “all parties” including Israel that reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas would help to maintain calm and support the future establishment of a Palestinian state, the sources told to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Russia has previously made efforts to advance reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

In January 2018, Moscow hosted a number representatives from the two rival parties and several other Palestinian factions to discuss mending the internal Palestinian rift.

In May 2011, Russia also hosted Fatah and Hamas officials to bolster reconciliation efforts.

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