Russian FM: Talking to Hamas important
After meeting with Israeli counterpart Lieberman, Lavrov clarifies Moscow trying to convince Palestinian group to engage in diplomacy, says 'we are witnessing positive movements.' Russia is continuing its efforts to reach a compromise in Iranian nuclear issue, he adds
"Yes, we are holding talks with Hamas – because it was elected by a large Palestinian majority in free elections, according to all elements," Lavrov said in a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
"Nonetheless," he added. "In all our talks with Hamas we try to convince our colleagues to move to the diplomatic route, to draw nearer to the PLO's stand and support the Arab peace initiative." He also hinted that "we are witnessing positive movements."
"If we take the economic development in Gaza as an example," he explained, "without direct talks with Hamas this issue will not be advanced. It's not a simple process, but it must be done."
Lieberman addressed the remark, saying that "the policy towards Hamas is one of the points we and Russia disagree on. But the smart thing to do is to continue holding a sincere dialogue, even on the points we don't agree on."
Addressing the peace process in a wider context, Lavrov said, "We believe everything must be done to reach a peace settlement in the Middle East."
He commented on the recent tensions over the Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem, saying that "unilateral moves must be prevented on all sides in order to prevent the situation from escalating before the city's final status is determined."
The Russian minister suggested ways to jumpstart the peace process, saying "we believe the Quartet and the international community are an important mechanism, but it's not enough. This is why we think a joint committee with the Arab League on this matter will be an important start. We believe efforts must continue both in the economic and security-related fields, as well as in the diplomatic route, otherwise extremism will increase and radical elements will be encouraged to act."
A Russian TV reporter asked Lieberman whether he believed a Palestinian state could be established by 2012. "As an optimistic person," the foreign minister replied, "I see no chance of reaching a Palestinian state by 2012. One can imagine, but I don't see a chance for it. We must launch economic negotiations, through the Quartet, until we reach direct talks."
'We'll meet UN demand on S-300'
Responding to reporters' questions, Lavrov addressed the Iranian issue as well. "As for uranium enrichment in Iran, we know that it has low-enriched uranium," he said. "According to the International Atomic Energy Agency's conclusions, they have 2,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. It's enough for two bombs – and that's nothing new."
He explained that Iran was continuing the enrichment "because they cannot receive fuel for their experimental reactor."
According to Lavrov, Russia is continuing its efforts to reach a compromise, on the backdrop of the recent initiative mediated by Turkey and Brazil, which offered to enrich uranium for Iran.
"We approached the IAEA secretary-general together with the United States and suggested appointing a committee of experts which would find a way to supply fuel so that enrichment in Iran won't be necessary. I hope Iran accepts this, so that the situation won't get complicated."
Lieberman addressed the Iranian issue as well, saying that "Israel has believed for many years that Iran is a threat, not only on Israel. There is no doubt that the Iranian nuclear process will lead to an arms race in the entire region. This threat must be stopped."
"Today, when they have moved on to 20% enrichment, it's clear to everyone that they are enriching for military purposes," the foreign minister added. "Iran is a threat to the entire Middle East, with its support for terror, with the Shiite rebels in Iraq, with Hezbollah and with Hamas."
Lavrov was also asked about the sale of S-300 antiaircraft missiles to Iran, which has been delayed for several years in light of a recent Security Council resolution to impose additional sanctions on Iran.
"The composition of the list of sanctions is unclear, but Russia will meet the international community's decisions," he said.