Russian Foreign Ministry: Hamas to visit in March

Hamas leaders will travel to Moscow for high-level talks with Russian officials next month, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday, amid Kremlin efforts to cement a central role in Mideast diplomacy and Western wariness about dealing with the militant Palestinian group that won parliamentary elections last month. Russian officials say they will press Hamas to recognize the state of Israel and to renounce violence. The other members of the so-called "quartet" leading Middle East peacemaking - the US, the EU and the United Nations - also are making those demands, but Washington and the EU have refused to meet with Hamas, unlike Russia. President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Hamas, made at a news conference in Spain earlier this month, was the latest bid by Moscow to invigorate its role in Mideast peacemaking after years of taking a back seat to the United States. The invitation stunned Israel and other nations. "We have reached an agreement in principle about the arrival in early March of a delegation of the Hamas leadership to Moscow," the Foreign Ministry said.