JERUSALEM (JTA) – Russia’s foreign minister defended his country’s holding direct talks with Hamas in Gaza, while his Israeli counterpart said achieving peace would take time.
"Yes, we are holding talks with Hamas — because it was elected by a large Palestinian majority in free elections, according to all elements," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday in Jerusalem following a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman.
Lavrov added that he believed that the talks were yielding results and that "we are witnessing positive movements." He said Russia was encouraging Hamas to accept the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel regional peace in exchange for land.
During the joint news conference, Lieberman said there would not be an independent Palestinian state in the next two years.
“I’m an optimistic person, but there is absolutely no chance of reaching a Palestinian state by 2012,” Lieberman said. “One can dream and imagine, but we are far from reaching understandings and an agreement.”
The Quartet, of which Russia is a member along with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, have called for peace between Israel and the Palestinians by 2012.