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Moscow says no meetings with Hamas planned in near future -1

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Russia does not plan to meet with the leadership of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas any time soon, First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said Tuesday.
(Recasts lead, paragraph 2, adds Denisov, Abbas quotes, background in paragraphs 3- 9)

MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti) - Russia does not plan to meet with the leadership of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas any time soon, First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said Tuesday.

"I cannot give a definite answer, but no such meetings are planned," Denisov said after President Vladimir Putin's meeting in Moscow with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was assured that Russia recognized him as the sole legitimate Palestinian leader.

Factional violence in Gaza last month led to a split of the Palestinian territories, with the enclave now controlled by Hamas and the West Bank remaining under the control of the pro-presidential Fatah movement. Abbas has since set up a new Cabinet in the West Bank, which enjoys international backing.

Moscow hosted Hamas leaders in 2006 following its landslide victory in general elections earlier that year, angering Western states, which call it a terrorist organization for its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence. And the militant group said Monday it was considering a new visit to Russia, but would make a decision after Abbas's visit.

"We have downgraded ties with Hamas, maintaining contacts with the pragmatic goal of influencing it directly and indirectly and encouraging the parties to resume dialogue," Denisov said, adding that Hamas was a diverse group that had more moderate leaders to deal with in it.

Denisov said that at the meeting with Abbas, President Putin highlighted the need to "ensure national unity as the main condition for creating an independent Palestinian state, which would be a key factor for peace, stability and security in the Middle East."

Speaking at a news conference following the meeting, Abbas said he would agree to talks with Hamas on condition it relinquish control of the Gaza Strip.

"Dialogue with Hamas is possible if the situation returns to normal, to what it was before Hamas seized Gaza in June," Abbas said.

Denisov also said Russia - a member of the Quartet of mediators in the Middle East conflict, which also comprises the U.S., the UN and the EU - would provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority and send 50 armored personnel carriers to maintain law and order in the West Bank.

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