Hamas officials in Moscow
Hamas officials have arrived in Russia for their first talks with a major foreign power and reaffirmed their refusal to recognise Israel.
Mohammed Nazzal, a senior official, said that "the issue of recognition is a done issue. We are not going to recognise Israel".
Nazzal, who is accompanying exiled Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mishaal, spoke to reporters after their delegation arrived in Moscow on Friday.
Although it deals a blow to US-led efforts to isolate Hamas since it swept Palestinian elections in January, Russia's mediation is seen by some in the West as a chance to press the Palestinian movement into embracing more moderate views.
Russia has said that, in talks slated for later on Friday, it would endorse the view of fellow patrons of the "road map" to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence that Hamas must recognise the Jewish state, renounce violence and accept past peace accords.
The pledge helped quell concern in Israel, which sees Hamas as a spearhead of a more than 5-year-old Palestinian uprising (intifada).
Occupation and recognition
Hamas regards the visit as a chance to push its position on the Western stage after winning support in the developing world.
Mishaal said: "Our visit to Moscow is a very important step for achieving a breakthrough in our international position."
He added that "this is a visit that has no conditions. We will listen to the position of Russian officials and we will clarify our own position."
In an interview with NTV television in Syria on Thursday, Mishaal said: "Our people want simple things: to be free and to have sovereignty. All this is impossible without an end to the occupation."
He declined to comment on the question of recognising Israel.
Hamas, whose charter calls for resistance to the occupation and the return of all Palestinian land, has been responsible for several bombings during the intifada but has largely abided by a truce declared last year which paved the way for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.
While so far ruling out permanent coexistence, Hamas has said it could accept a long-term ceasefire if Israel also quits all of the occupied West Bank and accepts an influx of Palestinian war refugees.