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In Moscow, Hamas sees opportunity to win international support

The recent Hamas delegation to Moscow and plans for more meetings between the two sides seem to be a message to Tel Aviv and Washington.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Russia’s Foreign Ministry invited Hamas’ political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh to visit Moscow, Al-Mayadeen TV reported May 6, citing anonymous sources.

Hamas delegation visited Moscow on May 4, holding talks with Russian Foreign Ministry officials. On May 7, Al-Mayadeen quoted Hamas sources as saying that another delegation will head to Moscow in early June.

Mousa Abu Marzouk, the head of Hamas’ international relations office who led the movement’s delegation to Moscow, said in a May 6 tweet, “The visit is part of [efforts to] deepen consultations and bilateral coordination between us and Russian friends. We discussed the Israeli attacks in Jerusalem and their dangerous repercussions and violations in the West Bank and Gaza.” 

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters following his meeting with the Hamas delegation that talks focused on the situation in the Palestinian territories and the latest developments at Al-Aqsa Mosque. He added that Moscow is ready to serve as a platform for meetings between Palestinians.

Russia has recently stepped up activity in the Palestinian dossier to boost relations with Hamas as tensions over the war in Ukraine plague Russian-Israeli ties

The various Palestinians factions have long hoped Russia would take on a greater role in the Palestinian file to break the US monopoly, which is why Palestinians have maintained a neutral stance on the Russian war in Ukraine and refused to condemn it.

Hamas political bureau member Suhail al-Hindi told Al-Monitor, “Hamas is open to the world countries and is ready to have contacts with any country or organization that supports Palestinian rights, including Russia.”

Hindi explained, “Russia’s positions on Palestinian rights are held in high regard and Hamas has an interest in the continuation and promotion of its relations with Russia,” which has relations with all the various liberation movements in the region, including Hamas.

He added, “Russia condemns the occupation’s crimes, stands with the Palestinian people in the injustice done to them and defends their rights.” 

Hindi noted that Hamas wants Moscow to support the Palestinians and counterbalance the United States in their favor.

He further said that in Moscow, Hamas discussed the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territories and the Israeli activities in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque and their repercussions on the entire region as well as the Palestinian reconciliation file, in which Russia seeks a role, Hindi said.

After his meeting with the Hamas officials on May 4, Bogdanov said that Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization will be invited to visit Russia soon.

The Russian interest in the Palestinian file coincides with tensions between Moscow and Tel Aviv, following Russian accusations that Israeli mercenaries are fighting alongside the Azov Battalion in Ukraine. 

The Russian meetings with Hamas seem like a message to Tel Aviv and Washington that Moscow could soon play a prominent role in the Palestinian issue.

Political writer and former Hamas official Ahmed Youssef told Al-Monitor, “Russia’s stances toward Hamas have always been different from those of the West. Moscow had held contacts with Hamas for years and did not place the movement on its terrorist lists.”

He added, “Russia is seeking more meetings with Hamas to send a message to the region that it is not against Muslims and it does not target liberation movements in the region. Moscow is trying to change the prevailing hostile mood against it in the region following its intervention in the Syrian war and the demonization campaign by the United States."

Youssef said, “At a time when Hamas is being isolated internationally and is classified as a terror group, Moscow is opening its arms to the movement and welcoming its leaders. … This sends a powerful message to the West and Israel.”

He added, “Russia found out that Israel is assisting the Ukrainians with weapons or military training and allowing Israeli forces to participate in the fighting alongside the Azov Battalion. Subsequently, Moscow wanted to show that it has leverage in the region and can create security problems for Israel if it wants to.”

Youssef went on, “Given its international weight, Russia can open the way for Hamas to establish relations with other countries that are allied with it, which would allow the movement to win favorable positions that could develop into support in the future.”

He indicated that Hamas seeks to firmly establish the Russian pro-Palestinian position in international forums, including the UN Security Council, and for Israel to find its previous relations with Russia are now a thing of the past. He noted that the current circumstances are favorable for Hamas to begin expanding its relations with Russia and other countries.

Youssef said that while Russia could play an effective role in the Palestinian reconciliation file, its efforts have so far been unsuccessful because the PA has weakened and is unable to end the Palestinian division thanks to US influence.

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