French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Syria on Tuesday to put pressure on its ally Hamas to return to a truce in the Gaza Strip where Israeli forces are carrying out a massive offensive against the Islamists.
"It's up to Syria to put pressure on the players (in the conflict) and notably on Hamas so that peace returns," Sarkozy told journalists after talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Sarkozy arrived in the Syrian capital Damascus earlier in the day as part of a Mideast tour trying to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
He added: "I am convinced that Syria can make an important contribution to the search for a solution. President Assad can play a role. He must convince Hamas it should choose reason, peace and reconciliation."
Sarkozy was referring to the bitter split between the supporters of Hamas and those who back Fatah of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Bashar, meanwhile, strongly condemned the Israeli offensive.
Israel launched a massive air offensive on the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip on December 27, and followed this with a ground invasion last Saturday night. Israeli leaders say the operation is aimed at halting rocket fire on Israel by Gaza militants.
The French president, who handed over the rotating presidency of the European Union to the Czech Republic earlier this month, began his trip on Monday, holding talks with leaders in Egypt, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the base of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
A separate EU delegation is also visiting the region to seek a ceasefire. Israel has rebuffed all calls to halt its offensive, receiving strong backing from the United States.
Sarkozy is due to visit Lebanon later Tuesday on the last step of his mission.