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Interview with Georgy Engelgardt

Political Islam expert Georgy Engelgardt joined Russia Today to discuss the possible results of the Middle East Quartet meeting in Lisbon – the first one since Islamist group Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in June.

Russia Today: It is the first meeting of the Quartet since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip. How significant is this gathering in Lisbon expected to be?

Georgy Engelgardt: This is really rather an important meeting. The major players are trying now to get some results from the recent events, first of all from the Hamas victory in Gaza, so what is expected are some major suggestions towards Palestine national administration lead by Mahmoud Abbas, and a new mediator is to take this job, so the meeting is going to be an important one.

RT: In advance of the talks Russia's Foreign Ministry called on the mediators to focus on measures to improve life for those living in the Palestinian territories. What stance are the various players expected to take on the issues surrounding this?

G.E.: This is maybe one of the key issues. The major policy of such players as Israel, is to use the split between Palestinian factions. So, these are some significant steps towards Palestine's national administration in the West Bank, at the same time with several restrictions towards Gaza controlled by Hamas. Living conditions in Gaza are deteriorating significantly, and I guess that Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's propositions are possibly aimed at changing this policy.

RT: This is the first meeting of the group since Tony Blair has taken up his position as special envoy. What level of influence is this likely to have?

G.E.: When one of the very serious and highly experienced international leaders takes an important position like this, this would influence the process. It is also expected that Mr Blair has also a specific strategy on enabling Palestine statehood: institution creation, some social strategy on Palestinian society. So, I guess, he will have a lot of work.