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Russia calls for one-step-at-a-time approach in talks with Hamas

MOSCOW, October 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister said Saturday that nations and international organizations that are mediating in the Middle East conflict should be more patient in their efforts to make the radical Palestinian organization Hamas recognize Israel and renounce violence.

"Regrettably, some members of the Middle East Quartet are trying to influence the [Mideast settlement] process by [putting forward] demands that appear excessive at this point," Lavrov told the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA in an interview.

The Mideast Quartet, which includes Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, increased its pressure on Hamas to have it recognize Israel's right to exist, abandon violence, and respect existing peace pacts after the militant Islamist grouping, blacklisted by many Western governments as a terrorist organization, won a landslide victory in legislative polls in January. The Palestinian Authority has since then been facing an international aid boycott, which the mediators say will not be lifted until the Hamas-led government meets all the demands.

But Lavrov said it was unrealistic for Hamas to fulfill all of the Quartet's requirements immediately and that the Islamist group should be given more time.

"Hamas' agreement to comply with all existing accords, its agreement to confirm [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas' status as the only negotiator [for the Palestinians] would be a significant move in the right direction," he said.

During talks with Lavrov and other senior Russian officials in Moscow earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said there is no point in trying to seek a compromise with Hamas, as it will never change its belligerent stance toward Israel, and that an alternative political force should be found.

Abbas' efforts to form a national unity government - one that would include, among others, members of his moderate Fatah movement - broke down last month, triggering an upsurge of violence between this group and Hamas radicals.

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