During a meeting with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in Damascus on Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged the Islamist group to "resolve the issue" of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as soon as possible.
Shalit was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during a cross-border raid on an IDF base near Gaza on June 25, 2006.
Medvedev (L) and Assad (Photo: AP)
Russian media reported that during the meeting, which was also attended by Syrian President Bashar Assad, Medvedev called on Hamas to reconcile with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
According to the Russian delegation's press secretary, Medvedev, who has already left Syria for Turkey, also stressed the importance of creating the conditions that are necessary for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The press secretary added that the meeting also centered on the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza amid Israel's ongoing blockade. The participants stressed the need to provide aid – including food and construction materials - to the residents of the Hamas-ruled territory in accordance with a demand made by the Mideast Quartet (Russia, US, European Union and UN) in Moscow on March 19.
Earlier Thursday, Assad said during a joint press conference with Medvedev that Russia is one of the supporters of the peace process and that this process is currently deadlocked.
However, according to Assad, "even during a stalemate, there are elements that can take steps to increase the opportunities for peace, or, on the contrary, take steps that may completely foil the peace process."
"We consider the expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem and the attacks on holy sites, as well as the siege on Gaza, as steps that may completely foil the peace process," Assad said.
Olga Gouresky contributed to the report