Topic: The Middle East Quartet
"We believe the quartet of international mediators [comprising Russia, the U.S., UN and EU] should thoroughly analyze these [Fatah-Hamas] agreements and take steps, which may help to begin substantial talks between Palestinians and Israelis," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov said.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will head the Russian delegation at the next meeting of the quartet in Berlin February 21.
Warring Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement in principle on the structure of a new power-sharing Cabinet at Saudi-sponsored negotiations in Mecca Thursday in an effort to avert civil war.
The preliminary deal was reached between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the Fatah party, and Khaled Mashaal, leader of the militant Hamas group, which has held a parliamentary majority for the past year.
According to Arab media reports, the agreement relates to the distribution of ministerial posts in a future national unity government, and aims to end fighting between the rival groups and restart constructive dialogue.
Until now, the escalating struggle for political influence between Hamas and Fatah had scuttled talks on forming a unity government.
During the latest wave of violence between gunmen from the two factions in Gaza last week, at least 30 people lost their lives, and hundreds were injured. The conflict escalated after an explosion in Jabalya last December that left two members of the Islamic group dead.
Hamas, still considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the EU, gained a majority in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) after defeating Fatah in January 2006 polls.
Since Hamas came to power, Western nations have blocked aid to the Palestinian government, over the Islamist group's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist, give up violence and comply with previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements seeking a solution to the long-protracted Middle East crisis.
Since then, all talks between Hamas and Fatah on the formation of a power-sharing government have ended in deadlock.
The sides at the Mecca summit pledged Wednesday not to end the talks until a mutually acceptable agreement is reached.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.