Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh attends a rally marking the 30th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City December 14, 2017.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority has notified the Russians of its opposition to the invitation of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Moscow, a senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov confirmed on Friday that Haniyeh has been invited to Moscow at the beginning of 2019.
“We have invited [Haniyeh] and he accepted the invitation with gratitude,” Bogdanov said. “[The visit] is likely to take place early next year.”
The Russian official said that Haniyeh’s visit to Moscow was in the context of Moscow’s effort to end the Hamas-Fatah rift.
“In our opinion, the priority should be the establishment of the Palestinian national unity,” he added. “In our view, it is extremely important that Fatah and Hamas, together with other Palestinian organizations, meet and agree on the restoration of political and geographical unity.”
Last week, Russia rejected a protest by Israel over the invitation of Haniyeh and said that Israel holds regular talks with the Palestinian terrorist group. Channel 10 reported that the protest was lodged by Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren.
“We have told the Russians that we’re not happy with the invitation of Haniyeh,” the PA official told the Post. “Haniyeh is the leader of a Palestinian group that staged a coup against the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip in 2007. He does not hold any official position in the Palestinian leadership.”
The official said that while the PA “fully appreciates Russia’s sincere effort to end divisions among the Palestinians, we believe that the only way to achieve national unity is for Hamas to implement previous reconciliation agreements with Fatah, especially the last one signed in Cairo late last year.”
“If Haniyeh is keen on ending the dispute [with Fatah], he should respond positively to Egyptian efforts to achieve Palestinian unity,” he said. “There’s no need to travel to Moscow or any other country. All Hamas needs to do is accept the latest Egyptian initiative to end the dispute and agree to the implementation of the reconciliation accords.”
The official claimed that Haniyeh’s invitation to Moscow came at the request of Hamas and was not initiated by the Russians.
On Friday, PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki met in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and discussed with him the latest developments in the Palestinian arena and issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to a statement issued by the PA Foreign Ministry, Malki called for a greater Russian role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also stressed the need for a “new international mechanism that would lead to a settlement based on the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the statement said.
Malki, the statement added, called on Russia and the international community to put pressure on Israel to abide by the agreements it signed with the Palestinians and to accept international resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Malki also stressed that the PA’s priority was to end the dispute with Hamas, and was doing its utmost to achieve this goal.
Malki said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has accepted an initiative by Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The Israeli side has rejected this initiative,” he claimed.
He also strongly criticized the US administration’s policies toward the Palestinians, and said they were “blatantly biased in favor of Israel and its hostile actions against the Palestinian people and their holy sites.”
Haniyeh, meanwhile, said on Saturday that the weekly protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel will continue until the blockade imposed on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave is removed.
Haniyeh was speaking during the funeral of one of four Palestinians who were reportedly killed by the IDF on Friday during the protests, which are being held as part of the so-called March of Return. Haniyeh said that although Israel has “exhausted all available means to end the March of Return, the protests are continuing until the blockade is lifted.”