Al Monitor: Hamas is mediating Russia to restore its relationship with Damascus

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas movement, in Moscow on a visit that touched on bilateral relations between the two sides and to discuss the US peace agreement known as the “Deal of the Century”.

Two days after his meeting with Lavrov, Haniyeh said that his movement “supports the sovereignty of the Syrian government over all Syrian lands” and referred to Damascus’s support for Hamas, saying, “We have been in Syria for 10 years and we will not forget this date. There is no decision, or political, by Hamas to engage in the Syrian issue”.

He also praised the Syrian government, saying “Damascus represents a strategic depth for the Palestinian issue” and tried to separate Hamas from everything related to Syria, adding “I strongly deny the presence of any Hamas fighter in Idlib, or before Idlib, or by participating in the Syrian events”.

He expressed his hope that “stability and safety will return to Syria, to return to exercising its natural role in the region”.

But according to what an official at the Russian embassy revealed to Al Monitor, speaking on condition of anonymity, that the meeting between Haniyeh and Lavrov touched on Hamas’s interference in mediating the conflict in northern Syria.

“Haniyeh’s meeting with the Russian foreign minister touched on many Palestinian issues at home and abroad, including the situation in Syria,” the official said.

Relations between Hamas and Damascus had deteriorated after the Syrian crisis began, as Hamas announced at the time its bias to the opposition and its leaders left Damascus in 2012, despite their presence in Syria since 2001.

The source indicated that Hamas had not explicitly requested Russian mediation to restore relations between the movement and Damascus, but stressed that Hamas had begun to work for rapprochement with the Syrian leadership, and that through its positive statements, it paved the way for Russia to mediate between it and Damascus in the future.

The source considered Russia’s position neutral with regard to Hamas and Syria, because it views the movement as an effective element in the Palestinian arena since its victory in the legislative elections in 2006.

Since the 2017 elections, Hamas has been seeking to repair its relations with the axis of resistance, including Damascus and Hezbollah in Lebanon.