A delegation from Hamas has arrived in Russia for high-level talks. The Palestinian militant group is embarking on its first official discussions with a major power involved in Middle East peacemaking. As the visit began, it showed no sign of softening its position. The group’s exiled political leader Khaled Meshaal used the opportunity to criticize Israel, accusing it of not respecting the so-called “roadmap” plan for peace.
One of his senior officials reiterated to reporters that Hamas would not recognize the Jewish state. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to head Moscow’s delegation in talks with the group, which regards this visit as a chance to highlight its position on the international stage. Highly controversial from the start, the talks deal a blow to US-led efforts to isolate Hamas since its surprise win in January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections. However some in the West see Russia’s mediation as a chance to press the group into embracing more moderate views. Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, has masterminded dozens of suicide bombings but has largely abided by a truce declared last year. After initially condemning Moscow’s overtures towards the group, Israel has now adopted a wait-and-see attitude.