Lavrov says Egypt has not asked Russia to pressure Hamas

Lavrov says Egypt has not asked Russia to pressure Hamas

Egypt has not asked Russia to put pressure on the Palestinian movement Hamas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists on Tuesday in the capital of Oman.

“There is no need for it and no one feels any [need for it] because we are all working in the same direction,” Lavrov said in response to a question on whether Egypt had asked Russia to put pressure on Hamas, and also on Iran and Syria, who have some influence over the group.

Lavrov also said that the date of a meeting of the international quartet for the Middle East peace process would be discussed at a conference on Palestinian rebuilding in Egypt on March 2. The quartet comprises the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

“The timeframe for convening the quartet depends on the schedules of all of its participants. I think that in the near future such a meeting should take place,” he said, adding that the date was not as important as defining the issues that should be discussed.

“Here, the deciding role will of course be played by supporting the efforts undertaken by Egypt in establishing lasting peace in Gaza, bringing about Palestinian unity and securing a united front from the Arab League,” Lavrov said. “I believe we need to concentrate on these tasks.”

Egypt said on Monday it had invited all the Palestinian factions to talks in Cairo on February 22, with the aim of forming a transitional government of national unity no later than April. Lavrov said Russia would take steps with its partners to ensure positive results.

“The restoration of Palestinian unity on the basis of the Palestine Liberation Organization is now crucial for ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip, allowing it to function normally … as well as for renewing the peace process,” he said. “This is why the unity of the Palestinian government has extremely important significance for tangible action.”

Over the past several weeks there have been three meetings between the main Palestinian Fatah and Hamas movements moderated by Egypt. The Palestinians have said that the meetings have “broken some ice” between the opposing factions.

It is expected that once a new government has been formed it will immediately begin preparations for elections of a new head of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and members of parliament set for January 2010.

One of the main tasks of the new cabinet will be to coordinate efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip after the recent three-week Israeli military operation that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and tens of thousands homeless.