Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Syrian President Bashar Assad
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Syrian President Bashar Assad posing for photos in Damascus on May 11, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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Russia on Thursday rebuffed Israel's criticism of President Dmitry Medvedev's meeting with the leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas this week.

Calling Hamas "a terror organization in every way", Israel's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was "deeply disappointed" that Medvedev met the group's exiled leader Khaled Meshal during a visit to Syria this week.

Russia, the United States, European Union and the United Nations, make up a quartet of Middle East mediators. The U.S., EU and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group. Russia insists that Hamas should not be isolated.

"Hamas...is a movement supported by the trust and sympathy of a significant part of Palestinians," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement. "We have regular contacts with this movement."

"It is known that all other participants of the Middle East quartet are also in some sort of contact with Hamas leadership, although for some unknown reason they are shy to publicly admit it," Nesterenko said.

During the meeting with Meshal, Medvedev called for the quick release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for nearly four years. Hamas later dismissed the Russian pressure and said Shalit would not be set free without an "honorable" prisoner exchange deal with Israel.