(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israeli diplomatic officials downplayed comments Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a day after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left Moscow to the effect that the world was expecting too much of Hamas, saying Lavrov represents the largely pro-Arab views of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The officials maintain that Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they said had a much more "balanced" view of the region, tempered these views in Moscow.
Olmert said after meeting with Putin on Wednesday that there was no mention in that four-hour meeting of watering down the Quartet's three demands of a Hamas-led PA: that it recognize Israel, forswear terrorism, and accept previous agreements.
Lavrov "tends to lean toward cultivating the Russian-Arab relationship," and isn't as balanced as some of the others in the Russian leadership, one official said.
The official said that Olmert said as much to Lavrov himself in a meeting the two had in Moscow on Thursday. Diplomatic officials said that Olmert was very "adamant" in that meeting.
Lavrov, in an interview with the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's Web site, said that international demands for Hamas were unrealistic at present, and that Hamas should be given more time to honor them.
He criticized unidentified members of the Quartet for "trying to influence this process by making excessive demands, excessive at the present stage."
He said Russian leaders told Olmert that the international community should start by encouraging Hamas to acknowledge all existing peace agreements and recognize Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, of the rival Fatah movement, as the only international negotiator for the Palestinians.
"That would be a very important step in the direction we all want," Lavrov said.
AP contributed to this report