Israel's foreign ministry has rejected Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's call for immediate engagement with the Palestinian group Hamas.
Medvedev met with Khaled Meshaal, the exiled head of Hamas, in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Wednesday.
The Russian president urged Hamas to work on a reconciliation deal with its rival Fatah, and insisted that "no one" should be excluded from the Middle East peace process, according to his spokeswoman.
The Israeli foreign ministry responded with a harshly-worded statement, which compared Meshaal to Shamil Basayev - the Chechen rebel leader killed by Russian special forces in 2006 - and labelled Hamas a "terrorist organisation".
"Israel always stood behind Russia in its fight against Chechen terrorism, and would have expected similar treatment regarding Hamas terrorism against Israel," the statement said.
The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported on Thursdaythat the Medvedev-Meshaal meeting "came as a surprise in Israel".
Russia is a member of the so-called Middle East Quartet, but - unlike its three partners - it has long urged immediate engagement with Hamas. The other Quartet members insist that Hamas must first renounce terrorism and recognise the state of Israel.
Russia is one of a handful of European countries to maintain ties with the group. The United States, European Union and Israeli governments all consider Hamas a terrorist organisation.
Shalit released urged
Medvedev also urged Meshaal to release Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006.
"The Russian president urged solving the problem of releasing... Gilad Shalit as soon as possible," Natalya Timakova, Medvedev's spokeswoman, said.
The Hamas leader reportedly blamed Israel for obstructing negotiationsfor Shalit's release. The two sides have been negotiating for years through a German mediating team.
Medvedev met Meshaal following a meeting with Syrian presidentBashar al-Assad.