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Putin Doesn't Regret Inviting Hamas Leaders to Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that he had no regrets for having invited Hamas leaders to Moscow earlier this year.

"It was a conscious decision to invite Hamas representatives and we don't regret anything," Putin told reporters at a late-night news conference. "One should negotiate not with those who are pleasant as a negotiating partner but with those who can influence the situation, those who can influence their own people."

Putin faced some international criticism for extending the invitation, which he and his government had justified as a tool to help convince the extremist organization to moderate its stance. Russia was accused of having broken the unity of the Quartet, which had foresworn contacts with extremists.

He spent much of Sunday's news conference answering Arab reporters' questions about Israel's underlying motives in the current explosion of violence in the Middle East. Russia had joined its Group of Eight partners earlier in the day in adopting a statement that blamed extremists for escalating violence in the Middle East and recognized Israel's right to defend itself — although they called on the Jewish state to show restraint.

"Under no circumstances can one abduct people and carry out rocket strikes on the territory of one state from the territory of another," Putin said.