Fatah, Hamas leaders to meet Russian officials

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Members of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas will meet "very senior" Russian officials on Monday during their informal three-day visit to Moscow, a Palestinian negotiator said Saturday.

The Palestinian delegation arrived in Russia on Friday evening after concluding mechanisms for implementing a reconciliation agreement between the two sides earlier in the week.

A member of the so-called Middle East Quarter, Russia backs making east Jerusalem the capital of a unified Palestine and is also in contact with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and is viewed as a terrorist organisation by Israel.

One of the Palestinian negotiators, Mustafa Barghouti, said the group planned to hold "a very important meeting with Russian officials on Monday."

"It will be a very senior" meeting, Barghouti added.

The visit has not been formally announced by Russia and the foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Barghouti said the Palestinians were formally invited to Moscow by a Russian Middle East studies institute.

The Palestinian unity pact has been strongly opposed by Israel, whose relations with Russia were strained this week by the expulsion of its military attache on spying charges from Moscow.

© 2011 AFP

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