Medvedev to Mashaal: Free Schalit

Russian president meets Hamas leader, Assad in Damascus.

Medvedev angry 311  (photo credit: Associated Press)
Medvedev angry 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has called on Hamas leader KhaledMashaal to free captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, the RIA Novosti newsagency quoted a Kremlin spokeswoman as saying Tuesday.
The two met in Damascus on Tuesday evening after Russia’s presidentheld talks with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, and addedMoscow’s weight to a diplomatic push to ease antagonism between Israeland Syria.
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 andbesieging Palestinians in Gaza are steps and measures that couldcompletely 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 lobbyMoscow to block the proposed new UN sanctions against Iran. Russia,which has veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council, hasbeen 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.