ANKARA, May 12 (Reuters/Denis Dyomkin and Tulay Karadeniz) - Turkey and Russia said on Wednesday the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas
should not be excluded from the Middle East peace process
after this week's launch of indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israel
Hamas, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has been shunned by the West for refusing to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.
At a joint news conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Turkish capital Ankara, President Abdullah Gul said peace could not be achieved if Hamas was not involved.
Nobody should be excluded when these talks are held. Unfortunately the Palestinians are divided in two. They must be united and to unite them there must be talks with both sides. The Hamas side won elections in Gaza and so cannot be ignored, Gul said.
Hamas's takeover in Gaza
left the Palestinians' mainstream Fatah
movement in control only in the West Bank
. Fatah is the dominant party in the Palestine Liberation Organisation
(PLO), which entered into the 1990s interim peace accords.
Gul added: When Turkey talked (with Hamas) it faced threats but it emerged that Turkey was right. You cannot achieve peace by excluding people.
TURKEY AS GO-BETWEEN
Turkey, a Muslim but secular state, has traditionally been an intermediary between Israel and the Arab world and has cooperated closely with the Jewish state on military matters.
Relations between them have cooled amid a series of spats triggered by Israel's offensive
in Palestinian-ruled Gaza at the end of 2008, which prompted repeated fierce criticism from Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Medvedev and Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad met Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, in Damascus on Tuesday.
After his talks with Gul on Wednesday, the Russian leader also indicated that Hamas should be included in the process.
We agreed to perhaps resolve this problem more actively, attracting all sides that are participating in the conflict, without isolating anyone from the process, Medvedev said.
What is happening now in the Palestinian administration shows that when there is such a division it's impossible to resolve internal problems -- that's why the situation in Palestine itself is getting worse, he said.
The PLO announced on Sunday the start of indirect talks with Israel mediated by the United States, which said both sides had taken steps to help its peace efforts succeed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
has said peace would be unobtainable without face-to-face contacts, while Palestinians say direct talks will only be held if Israel announces a complete halt to Jewish settlement
Netanyahu, head of a coalition dominated by pro-settler parties, has rejected a total freeze on construction of settlements in occupied West Bank