Russia's president is expected to hand over a message from Israel to Syria during a visit to Damascus beginning Monday, part of a flurry of diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions between the two countries.
Dmitry Medvedev is scheduled to arrive late on Monday for his first to Syria, once one of the former Soviet Union's closest allies in the Middle East. He and Syrian President Bashar Assad are also expected to discuss Iran's nuclear program, military cooperation and developing economic relations.
The office of President Shimon Peres announced Sunday that Medvedev agreed to deliver an Israeli message to Assad. Peres and Medvedev met in Moscow recently during the annual commemoration ceremony marking the end of World War II.
Peres said Israel wants peace with Syria but that it must stop alleged weapons transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Peres recently accused Syria of transferring Scud missiles to Hezbollah, a claim Damascus denies.
Medvedev will address the rising tensions between Syria and Israel on the heels of the Israeli Scud accusations. The Russian leader was quoted Monday by the private Syrian daily Al-Watan as saying that his country was making serious efforts to help restart Arab-Israeli negotiations.
Medvedev said there should be a collective search for new ways to face "comprehensive dangers and challenges."
Boosting economic ties
President Medvedev has also hinted Russia wants to boost economic ties with Syria.
The Syrian al-Watan published an article by Medvedev Monday that said he wanted trade with Damascus to reach the high level at which it had been in 2008.
"We must return to the level of mutual trade we had in 2008, which was around two billion dollars, but has since dropped to 1.136 in 2009 because of the global economic crisis," he wrote.
"We have a considerable ability to achieve this goal. We understand well that we must proceed through use of original technology. I plan to discuss this with President Assad."
Regarding the peace process Medvedev wrote, "Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the Mideast Quartet, will invest serious effort in restarting the Arab-Israeli dialogue."
Assad is just returning from a successful visit to Turkey, where he took part in a triple summit with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
The three reportedly agreed to promote ties between their countries and called for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear dispute.