"Any deliveries of arms to any region that changes the balance of power or disturbs stability is impossible," Lieberman said.

Peace conference

Earlier in his visit, Lieberman, whose family is from Moldova, said that Israeli-Russian relations were at "their highest point" ever.

Speaking fluent Russian, he said: "We are connected by very many humanitarian, military and political issues. These will all be priority issues for us."

Lavrov indicated that there had been progress on a plan long-cherished by Russia - a member of the international quartet of Middle East negotiators - to host a peace conference bringing together Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Such a conference would boost Russia's diplomatic credentials.

"We agreed we'll continue contacts on an expert level to prepare the necessary agenda for calling a Moscow conference."

However, he stopped short of saying Lieberman had actually given the green light for such a meeting.

Hamas ties

Kommersant, the Russian newspaper, said Lieberman had made it clear ahead of his visit that Israel would not attend any conference if representatives of the Palestinian Hamas faction were invited.

Russia has kept up ties with the leadership of Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organisation, arguing the need for dialogue between both sides.

Lavrov voiced optimism over Barack Obama's, the US president, overtures to Iran [AFP]
Last month, the Israeli government said it was "deeply disappointed" when Lavrov met Khaled Meshaal, the exiled head of Hamas, in Damascus. 

Russia's foreign minister also voiced optimism about overtures to Iran by Barack Obama, the US president, and the prospects for renewing international talks with Tehran on its nuclear programme.

"We have a really good chance, including due to the position of the new US administration," Lavrov said.

Israeli-Russian ties have improved somewhat in recent months, despite Israeli worries about Moscow's co-operation with Iran.

Russian defence officials have said that a planned sale of sophisticated S-300 air defence systems to Iran, a deal that had disturbed Israel, had been halted.

In another sign of improved relations, Russia's military has also recently bought aerial surveillance drones from an Israeli contractor.

Lieberman later held talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, in St Petersburg.