Text size

President Shimon Peres warned Russia that Iran's attainment of nuclear weapons would place Israel under the threat of "an airborne death camp."

Peres relayed Israel's concerns during a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi on Monday.

Medvedev told Peres that Moscow is opposed to Iranian ambitions to attain nuclear weapons.

Medvedev, who received Peres in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, said that Russia seeks to upgrade its strategic relationship with Israel so that it would be on par with its ties with key European countries like Germany, France, and Italy.

"Russia is opposed to nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Iran," Medvedev said. "This situation disturbs all of us and we have no doubt that if Iran attains nuclear weapons this will lead to a nuclear race by other states in the Middle East and this is the worst-case scenario."

Russia is helping Iran build its first nuclear power plant as part of a program Iran says is purely peaceful. The United States and Israel say it is meant to develop atomic weapons.

"The problem in Iran is not just the desire to develop nuclear weapons but the character of the regime," Peres said. "Mr. President, I am a Jew, and a large part of my family [from Belarus] was murdered by the Nazis and I cannot sit with my hands folded while I hear the declarations of the president of Iran calling for the destruction of the state of Israel."

"From my standpoint, a nuclear bomb in Iran's hands means one thing ? an airborne death camp," Peres said.

Medvedev also sought to reassure Israel that Moscow would not sell advanced weaponry - namely arms that would "tip the strategic balance" - to states that are still technically at war with Israel.

"Russia is against the sale of weapons that can violate the delicate [strategic] balance in the Middle East and we do not intend to change this position," Medvedev said.

Russia aspires to host an international conference to discuss the Middle East peace process.

Medvedev welcomed Peres by calling him one of the world's most experienced politicians and said he was ready to discuss both bilateral ties and regional challenges.

"We can touch on both Russian-Israeli ties and difficult issues related to the Middle East settlement and other regional problems," Medvedev said at the start of the talks. "There are more difficulties than we wish, but we still need to discuss them."

Peres told Medvedev that he had great hopes for the meeting.

Israel wants Russia, which has close ties with Iran, to increase pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program. Iran, whose president has expressed hatred of Israel, maintains its nuclear program is only designed to provide more electricity.

Israel, the United States and other nations fear that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.