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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Urges Militants to Release Israeli Soldier

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Monday for Palestinian militants to release a captured Israeli soldier, and his Israeli counterpart urged the international community to demand he be set free.

"The most important thing right now is to achieve the release of the captive Israeli soldier," Lavrov said, adding that Moscow was using all available channels to assist in that aim. He also called on militants to stop attacking Israeli cities, and urged Israel to exercise restraint.

Lavrov and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held talks as tensions between Israel and the Palestinians soared over the soldier's capture more than a week ago. Livni, speaking to reporters later during a visit to a synagogue, would not comment on an ultimatum issued by Palestinian militants Monday. Corporal Gilad Shalit, 19, was kidnapped on June 25.

Lavrov said that "it is possible to normalize the situation only through efforts on both sides ... so we also call on the Israeli government for maximum restraint."

Meeting with Lavrov, Livni said she had hesitated to come to Russia at such a tense time, but that Israel believed Russia's role "can be very important" in helping solve the crisis. She thanked Lavrov for calling for the unconditional release of the soldier.

President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Russia "will do everything in its power to promote the swiftest possible normalization of the situation in the Palestinian territories," the Kremlin said. It said Putin spoke to Abbas by telephone after meeting with Livni, and that the Palestinian side initiated the call.

Livni, meeting with Lavrov, expressed Israel's displeasure that Russia hosted a high-level Hamas delegation at Putin's invitation in March, when Moscow failed to persuade the militant group to soften its anti-Israel stance.