Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev has called for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit at a meeting with Hamas leaders in Damascus.
President Medvedev also called for the Middle East to rid itself of nuclear weapons and signed a bilateral agreement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia is the only country which has direct relations with Hamas.
President Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timkova, said: “The Russian president urged solving the problem of releasing Israeli citizen Gilad Shalit as soon as possible."
But Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has said that they will not release Sergeant Shalit, 23, until talks are resumed to free Palestinian prisoners.
The talks to free the captured soldier broke down last year after Hamas refused to respond to the final offer from the Israeli negotiators.
President Medvedev urged the Middle Eastern countries to come clean about their nuclear weapons capabilities.
He said: “Tensions in the Middle East threaten to lead to a new explosion or even a catastrophe.”
Israel has never admitted having a nuclear arsenal but former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu revealed details of the nuclear weapons programme to the British press in 1986.
Syria is currently under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which suspects Syria may be in the process of building nuclear weapons — which President al-Assad denies.
President Medvedev aimed most of his criticism at Iran and said Russia could support new UN Security council sanctions against Iran’s nuclear development programme.