MOSCOW (AFP) - Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas was in Moscow on Monday for a first meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev, seeking to secure Russian support for keeping Middle East peace efforts on track. Ahead of the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave support to Abbas against a backdrop of resurgent unrest in Gaza, with Israel threatening a major offensive against Hamas. "We support Mahmud Abbas' effort to maintain Palestinian unity despite many provocations," Lavrov said at a press conference alongside the Palestinian leader in an apparent swipe at Abbas' rivals in Hamas. Lavrov reiterated Moscow's support for the stalled peace process under the principles of the so-called "roadmap" adopted in 2003, saying it was being threatened by both terrorist attacks and by Israeli settlement policy. Abbas said he "appreciated" Russia's role in the peace process. Both he and Lavrov said they were looking forward to a Middle East peace conference that Moscow plans to host next year. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP ahead of the Moscow talks that Abbas would be seeking to enlist Russia's support in opposing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. "During the discussions he will insist on the necessity that Israel stop building settlements and prevent a rollback to the starting point of the negotiations," Erakat said. Over the weekend Abbas visited Grozny, the capital of Russia's war-ravaged region of Chechnya, and met Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in a trip that the Russian newspaper Kommersant said would "undoubtedly" please the Kremlin. "Mahmud Abbas became the first leader of the Muslim world to fly to Chechnya," the newspaper said, pointing out that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and Jordan's King Abdullah II had not toured Chechnya on visits to Russia. "This will undoubtedly please Moscow," Kommersant said. Abbas's visit to Moscow came after he travelled to Washington last week in a bid to keep peace efforts alive, amid growing tensions between Israel and the Hamas, which controls Gaza. Violence around Gaza has steadily escalated since Friday, when Hamas announced that it would not renew a six-month truce with Israel.