mashaal lavrov 298.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church called on Hamas to reach peaceful dialogue with Israel, Russian news agencies reported Sunday.
Interfax and RIA-Novosti quoted Patriarch Alexy II as telling Hamas' political chief Khaled Mashaal and other members of the delegation that there was no other alternative.
"Peaceful dialogue must be continued regardless of individual politicians - a whole nation must not suffer through the fault of individual politicians," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Sunday was the final day of a three-day trip by the Hamas delegation to Moscow. They came at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.
The invitation was the first crack in an international front against the group, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Israel. The invitation also angered the Jewish state and surprised Russia's partners in the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators.
Since winning parliamentary elections in January, Hamas repeatedly has said it would be willing to continue the informal truce if Israel reciprocates. The United States and the EU, meanwhile, have threatened to cut off $1 billion in aid to the Palestinians unless Hamas recognizes Israel and renounces violence.
Russia could be a significant force in promoting stability in the Middle East, Mashaal said Saturday, although he did not back off his earlier vow not to recognize Israel.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which claims as followers two-thirds of the country's population as well as millions in neighboring countries, is the largest in the Orthodox world.