Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Gilad Schalit’s continued captivity “intolerable,” and said it was “a humanitarian issue” of great importance, according to European Jewish leaders who met with Lavrov on Tuesday in Moscow.
Lavrov met with leaders of the European Jewish Congress as part of a series of encounters between the group and Russian leaders this week that will culminate in a Thursday session with both Lavrov and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The group is using the meetings to lobby Russia’s top decision-makers about Russia’s stance regarding Iran, among other issues.
Lavrov made the remarks about Schalit after EJC President Moshe Kantor handed the foreign minister a copy of a children’s book created from a story Gilad Schalit wrote when he was 11 years old, titled When the Shark and the Fish First Met.
The Jewish leaders asked Lavrov to wield Russian influence in the Middle East “to help solve this issue.”
According to the EJC, Lavrov said he was in constant communication with the Schalit family and that the Russian government stood ready to provide assistance at any time.
The EJC delegation also explained its concerns over Russian opposition to increased sanctions on Iran.
“It is vital that there is consensus on the next step should the talks [between Western powers and Iran] fail,” Kantor said after the meeting with Lavrov.
“Russia is a vital part of any chance that a strong sanctions program will achieve its object and end the nuclear standoff peacefully,” he added.
“We also asked the Russian leaders to impress the need for tough sanctions [on] their allies, including the Chinese,” he said.
The delegation also raised with Lavrov – and will discuss with Medvedev – the possibility that Russia will give the Iranians Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.
If the state-of-the-art S-300s reach Iran, Kantor said, “we can kiss good-bye to any chance of a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
“It is clear that the Iranians already see themselves as able to dictate terms to the international community. This missile system would allow them to think of themselves as completely above the law and would act with complete impunity.”