(photo credit: Associated Press)
Russia's foreign minister said he expected Hamas to move closer to meeting international demands within two weeks - including setting up foreign aid monitoring and recognizing Israel, according to a newspaper interview published Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Vremya Novostei daily that during its recent visit to Moscow, a delegation led by Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal promised to consider recognizing the so-called road map for a Mideast peace settlement, accepting an international aid monitoring mechanism, and recognizing Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority Chairman - including his authority to lead the Palestinians' foreign policy.
"I think that in the next two weeks we will see some practical steps in these directions," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
He warned against international attempts to isolate Hamas, saying they could lead to chaos.
"Maybe someone is counting on intervening in this situation, establishing order and destroying Hamas? But this would invite a very big war in the Middle East," Lavrov said.
Lavrov discussed Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem's visit to Moscow this week with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. Lavrov had said Tuesday that he and Moallem had agreed on the need to support an internal political dialogue in Lebanon, end illegal arms trafficking there and encourage Hamas to observe Mideast peace accords.
Lavrov and Annan also expressed concern about the unrest in the West Bank and Gaza.
"They underlined the need to coordinate work of the Middle East Quartet with the aim of overcoming the crisis and renewing the peace process," the ministry said.
Lavrov also discussed the Iranian nuclear crisis and Mideast peace process with his German and French counterparts, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Philippe Douste-Blazy.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday issued a statement voicing a "deep concern" about the latest tensions in the Palestinian territories following an Israeli operation to detain several Palestinian prisoners from the Jericho Prison, following the withdrawal of British and American observers from the prison premises. The ministry urged the Palestinians and Israel to resume political dialogue.
Angry Palestinians had vandalized several Western offices and seized 11 foreigners Tuesday to protest what they saw as Western complicity in the raid. All but one of the foreigners was freed by Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, Lavrov named Sergei Yakovlev as his new Mideast envoy to replace Alexander Kalugin, the ministry said.