Medvedev to Mashaal: Free Schalit

Russian president meets Hamas leader, Assad in Damascus.

May 12, 2010 04:38
1 minute read.
Dmitry Medvedev

Medvedev angry 311 . (photo credit: Associated Press)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has called on Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to free captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a Kremlin spokeswoman as saying Tuesday.

The two met in Damascus on Tuesday evening after Russia’s president held talks with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, and added Moscow’s weight to a diplomatic push to ease antagonism between Israel and Syria.

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During the meeting with Assad, Medvedev warned that Israeli-Arab tensions threatened to draw the Middle East into a new catastrophe.

The two presidents, meeting in Damascus, also affirmed Iran’s right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, as world powers have pressed for new economic sanctions to try and stop what they say is really a drive for atomic weapons capability.

Following his meeting with Mashaal, Medvedev headed to Turkey to oversee the signing of several cooperation agreements, including energy and the lifting of entry visas.

“Tensions in the Middle East threaten to lead to a new explosion or even a catastrophe,” he said.

Before Medvedev’s visit, President Shimon Peres’s office said the Russian president had agreed to deliver a message to Assad seeking to ease the tensions.

Assad: Israel expels Palestinians from Jerusalem

At a joint news conference with Assad, Medvedev did not mention whether he had delivered a message.

Assad, however, addressing the reporters, leveled more accusations against Israel over its conflict with the Palestinians.

“Expelling Palestinians from Jerusalem, attacking holy sites and besieging Palestinians in Gaza are steps and measures that could completely derail the peace process,” he said.

US-mediated indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians began last week after 17 months of deadlock.

Syria had also been expected to use Medvedev’s two-day visit to lobby Moscow to block the proposed new UN sanctions against Iran. Russia, which has veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council, has been reluctant to back a fourth round of tougher penalties.

Assad said sanctions would be “useless and would complicate chances of reaching a solution.”

Medvedev was set to meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul at a banquet Tuesday. His official talks are on Wednesday.

Russia is Turkey's second largest trading partner and ties are flourishing.

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