Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is visiting Damascus, met Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and demanded that the terrorist group release captive Israeli soldier First Sergeant Gilad Shalit.

Medvedev's spokesperson stated that the Russian leader had stressed the fact that the soldier has been in captivity for more than four years. Medvedev also told Mashaal that Hamas and Fatah need to unite.

In a joint press conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Medvedev warned that “tension in the Middle East is threatening to bring about a new explosion.”

He said that Russia would make a strenuous effort to help renew the peace process in the region “on the basis of international decisions.” A just and comprehensive peace would involve the “liberation” of occupied Arab territories, he said, and the establishment of “an independent Palestinian state that would live in peace and security beside all of its neighbors, and first among these – Israel.”