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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Will Russia Arm Hamas?

HaAretz has more details of the Russian invitation to Hamas that I reported on earlier, and they are not pretty.

While Hamas' political chief Khaled Meshaal was holding talks with Turkish officials in Ankara on Thursday, Russia announced it had agreed in principle on a meeting with Hamas officials in Moscow in early March.

A top Russian military officer also said Thursday that Russia could decide on weapons deliveries to the Palestinians after the talks with Hamas leaders, the Interfax news agency reported.

"This decision must be made with the new Palestinian leadership," the army's chief of the general staff, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, was quoted as saying.

He said that two helicopters expected to be delivered to the Palestinians would be unarmed and were intended for transporting the territory's leaders. [This is designed to put Israel on the spot as Israel has said that it will not allow Hamas leaders to travel between Gaza and Judea and Samaria. CiJ]

"Armored equipment is also intended for stabilizing the situation," Interfax quoted Baluyevsky as saying. The Palestinian Authority plans to buy two Mi-17 transport helicopters and 50 armored personnel carriers, Interfax said.

HaAretz also makes the Turkish meeting look a bit less positive for the 'Palestinians.'

Turkish Foreign Minister Abudullah Gul said on Thursday that he had clarified to Hamas that Turkey stood firmly behind the Middle East Quartet's condition to withhold aid from a Hamas-led Palestinian government unless the Islamist group renounces violence and abandons its commitment to Israel's destruction.

A Hamas delegation headed by the group's political chief, Khaled Meshaal, arrived in Turkey Thursday for unexpected talks. This was the first visit by senior members of the militant Islamist organization to a non-Arab country since it won a January 25 election.

An official in Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan office said the prime minister would not meet Hamas leaders during their visit to Ankara.

"It is out of the question that the prime minister hold talks with the Hamas delegation," the official told reporters.


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