Surrender monkeys doing what comes naturally again...Israel and US on back foot over Hamas
By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Peter Spiegel in Taormina, Italy
Published: February 10 2006 18:56 | Last updated: February 10 2006 18:56
US and Israeli efforts to isolate Hamas diplomatically appeared to be further undermined on Friday as France cautiously endorsed a Russian offer of talks with the militant Palestinian group.
The Bush administration and Israel have refused to deal with Hamas – listed as a terrorist organisation by Washington and the European Union – which is forming a government following its victory in last month’s Palestinian elections.
US officials admit they were blindsided and dismayed by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, when he proposed on Thursday inviting Hamas to Moscow for talks. The White House was left urging Russia to use the occasion to underscore the principles it had signed up to as a member of the international Quartet – made up of the US, Russia, the EU and the United Nations – that Hamas recognise Israel, renounce violence and endorse existing agreements.
US officials said they thought they had an understanding that no party would unilaterally talk to Hamas.
Meir Sheetrit, an Israeli cabinet minister, on Friday accused Mr Putin of “stabbing Israel in the back”. But France said Russia’s initiative could be positive as long as Moscow stuck to the Quartet’s agreed principles.
Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defence minister, defended Moscow’s decision to invite Hamas, arguing that eventually all four Quartet members would have to deal directly with the group. “Hamas came to power as a result of a free, democratic election,” he said at a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Sicily.
Turkey, which has offered to act as intermediary, could also become involved in what appears to be a new set of dynamics in Middle East diplomacy. Afif Safieh, Palestinian envoy to Washington, said yesterday a delegation of Hamas leaders would soon travel to Arab countries and Turkey.
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