Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev hosted Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres for talks Tuesday that were expected to focus on the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear standoff.

Russia aspires to host an international conference to discuss the Middle East peace process, and Medvedev and Peres were expected to discuss the issue during their talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Medvedev welcomed Peres by calling him "one of the world's most experienced politicians" and said he was ready to discuss both bilateral ties and regional challenges.

"We can touch on both Russian-Israeli ties and difficult issues related to the Middle East settlement and other regional problems," Medvedev said at the start of the talks. "There are more difficulties than we wish, but we still need to discuss them."

Peres told Medvedev that he had "great hopes" for the meeting.

Israel wants Russia, which has close ties with Iran, to increase pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program. Iran, whose president has expressed hatred of Israel, maintains its nuclear program is only designed to provide more electricity.

Israel, the United States and other nations fear that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.