Hamas leader Mashaal to visit Russia for talks

Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal will travel next week to Moscow for talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday, one day after the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators demanded that any Palestinian government recognize Israel. During Mashaal's visit, Russia planned to continue its efforts "toward stabilizing the situation in the Palestinian territories and overcoming the inter-Palestinian discord that followed the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah," the ministry said in a statement. Russia also wanted to help in the forming of a Palestinian national-unity government "that takes into consideration the well-known criteria of the Quartet, and also the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue," the ministry said. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, confirmed the upcoming trip, saying its aim was to "market the Mecca agreement and garner support for it." Mashaal is currently in Cairo to discuss the agreement, and Egyptian efforts to organize an exchange of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas, for the past seven months.