Russia calls for "speedy" end to Gaza blockade
Moscow has called for a “speedy” end to the Gaza Strip blockade after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a rare phone conversation with Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
“[Lavrov] called for the speedy removal of the blockade of the Gaza Strip to improve the humanitarian plight of Palestinian civilians,” the government’s Voice of Russia website quoted the Moscow’s foreign ministry as saying in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement added: “Lavrov reiterated Russia’s principled position based on U.N. decisions in support of legitimate hopes of Palestinians for the creation of an independent and territorial integral state co-existing in peace and harmony with its neighbors.”
Gaza’s Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu said Haniyeh and Lavrov discussed Israel’s peace talks with the rival Palestinian government in the West Bank, the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza and “common relations.”
While Russia has in the past hosted Hamas officials, who are largely shunned by the international community, the 35-minute phone call was the first high-level conversation in months.
The Palestinian movement Hamas, which has governed Gaza since 2007, doesn’t recognize Israel as a state.
Since Hamas seized control of Gaza, Israel has imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, compelling Palestinians to dig underground tunnels to smuggle necessary goods from across the border.
According to the Russian statement, Haniyeh told Lavrov about the social and economic situation in Gaza and discussed overcoming differences between Hamas and its rival government in the West Bank.
The news comes after a senior Hamas member said on Monday that the Islamist movement has resumed relations with Iran after a temporary disagreement over the Syrian conflict.
Hamas’s Mahmud al-Azhar said “relations between Hamas and Iran have resumed,” the Agence France-Presse quoted him as telling reported.
Both Iran and Russia back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Shiite Iran also had long supported the Sunni Hamas against their shared enemy Israel.
But exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal left his base in Damascus after the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, criticizing President Assad, a key ally of Iran, and moving to the Sunni Gulf state of Qatar.
After Meshaal left Damascus, reports alluded that Hamas was supporting the Syrian rebels against Iran-backed Shiite supporters of President Assad, such as the Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
According to media reports, this has led to a decrease in crucial Iranian funding of Hamas.