(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni condemned Hamas's Thursday visit to Turkey, the first non-Arab country to receive leaders of the terrorist organization following its victory in the Palestinian elections.
The visit came as Russia announced it would be welcoming Hamas for talks next month. The discussions will include a possible Russian sale of two Mi-17 transport helicopters and 50 armored personnel carriers to the Palestinians, according to the Interfax news agency.
The Russian army's chief of General Staff, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, said the helicopters would be unarmed and were intended for transporting the territory's leaders.
"Armored equipment is also intended for stabilizing the situation," Interfax quoted Baluyevsky as saying.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded that "Israel would be most concerned about weaponry reaching Hamas" under such a plan.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, on a brief visit to Israel as part of a Middle East tour in the wake of the Danish cartoon controversy, suggested that Hamas visits to countries such as Russia and Turkey could help reinforce the conditions set by the Quartet (the EU, the UN, the US and Russia) concerning a Hamas government.
The Quartet has declared that Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and honor previous agreements signed by the Palestinians and Israel.
But at a press conference with Solana, Livni dismissed the need for any reiteration of the conditions to Hamas.
"The demands of the Quartet are clear and non-negotiable," she said. "Just like the existence of Israel is not subject to discussion, neither is the need for Hamas to give up violence and terror." She called such meetings "unnecessary and dangerous."
Livni expressed her displeasure in a conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul earlier Thursday, in which Gul assured her that he would repeat the demands of the international community.
"The peace process has to continue - and for that, Palestinians should be able to live in their own independent state side by side with the independent Israeli state," Gul said Thursday. "The peace negotiations will be at the table, and no doubt there should be no violence."
Gul said Turkey was trying to guide the Palestinians to the right path toward peace.
"These days are important days. Correct messages should be given. Someone should do something; if the wrong paths are taken, both Palestinian and Israeli people will get hurt," Gul said in remarks broadcast on TV. "Turkey is fulfilling our responsibility in these critical days."
The Hamas delegation met for two hours with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials led by Deputy Undersecretary Ahmet Uzumcu.
On Wednesday, Jordan said it would welcome a visit by the leaders of Hamas, a departure from Amman's position that it would not deal with the exiled chiefs.
"We welcome the visit of a delegation of our brothers, the leaders of Hamas, in their capacity as leaders of a Palestinian faction which we respect and value," Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit told a parliamentary session.
Bakhit's remarks show a change in the firm position that the government would not deal with the Hamas leaders who live outside the Palestinian territories because of what they refer to as "standing legal obstacles."
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