(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke this afternoon (Sunday, 5 March 2006) with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who telephoned in order to update him on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent talks with Hamas leaders in Moscow.

President Putin emphasized several times that Russia would not take any step against Israeli interests and would not harm Israel’s security.  He said that, during the talks in Moscow, Russia’s representatives had presented the Quartet’s demands to Hamas.  He explained the Russian position, which supports holding contacts with Hamas, and said that negotiations are always held with interlocutors whose positions are harsh and complicated.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert said that Israel’s position is very different from Russia’s and added that Israel would not negotiate with a terrorist organization such as Hamas.  He said that it was a mistake to meet the Hamas leaders before the organization committed itself to accepting the three principles approved by the Quartet, of which Russia is a member.  He said that Russia’s contacts with Hamas would only encourage the organization not to make the changes that the international community is demanding of it in order for it to become a partner for dialogue.

Olmert said that when a Hamas-led government is established, it will be impossible to make the artificial distinction between the Palestinian Authority government and the Hamas-controlled PA parliament, and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The two leaders also discussed the Iranian issue and agreed to be in continuous contact in order to deal with regional challenges.