Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Wants End to Palestinian Embargo

APLavrov meeting on Tuesday with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Moscow.
Moscow supports the creation of a unity government in the Palestinian territories and will work to help lift a Western aid embargo, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

Lavrov's comments came the same day he met in Moscow with Khaleed Mashaal, head of the radical Hamas group.

Mashaal, in response, praised Russia for keeping its door open to Hamas, which has been boycotted by most Western governments. He also blamed Israel for tensions in the region but promised that the new Palestinian government would not resort to violence.

"We actively support the process of the creation of the unity government and believe that the international community will ... support the process and lift the blockade from Palestine," Lavrov said before his talks with Mashaal, Itar-Tass reported.

Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist and has not renounced violence in principle.

After the radical group gained control of the Palestinian government in early 2006, the United States and European Union suspended crucial financial aid.

The ensuing crisis was worsened by a bloody conflict between Hamas and the relatively moderate Fatah group. That conflict has now apparently been resolved, following a meeting this month in Mecca.

As it seeks to boost its influence in the Middle East, Russia has been the only member of the so-called Quartet -- which also includes the EU, the United States and the United Nations -- that has called for lifting the embargo. The Quartet is charged with bringing peace to the region.

Mashaal, who led a Hamas delegation to Moscow last March, said Tuesday that he "valued highly the brave steps taken by Russia as it accepts us today just as it did last year."

Last year, Lavrov attempted to persuade Hamas leaders to recognize Israel and renounce violence, to no avail.

Mashaal also praised President Vladimir Putin for his recent speech in Munich, Germany, in which the president attacked the United States for meddling in other countries' affairs.

Mashaal hailed Putin's latest Middle East trip, saying it would "help strengthen Russia's ties with the Arab world."

Mashaal said Hamas was not ready to recognize Israel, accusing Israeli officials of not doing the same for the Palestinian Authority, formerly led by Yasser Arafat and now under Mahmoud Abbas.

"First of all, Israel has to stop the occupation of Palestine's territory and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people," Mashaal said, Interfax reported. In the meantime, he ruled out the use of violence against Israel by the Palestine government.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman told journalists in Moscow on Tuesday that he hoped other Quartet members would not lift the embargo from the Palestinian Authority, saying that would only strengthen Hamas.

Staff Writer Svetlana Osadchuk contributed to this report.