EU calls on Netanyahu to accept Palestinian state


European countries urged Israel's Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu today to accept the Palestinian quest for statehood, something he has been silent on so far.

Mr Netanyahu this week said his future right-leaning Israeli government would negotiate peace with the Palestinians, but made no mention of the longstanding US-backed policy aim, recently reaffirmed by President Barack Obama.

"We Europeans are insisting that whatever the weighting is in the two governments (Israeli and Palestinian), the creation of a two-state solution must stand first and foremost," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

"We should not always have to start from the beginning again - that is my urgent appeal," he told reporters at talks with EU counterparts in the Czech Republic.

Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn said a long-mooted upgrading of EU-Israeli trade and other ties depended on Israel achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians, although ministers from other countries did not echo his remarks.

"We must tell the Israelis that it is not allowed to walk away from the peace process... The upgrading process was always to be viewed from the perspective of the peace process having been completed," Asselborn told reporters.

The EU put talks on a potential upgrade of ties with Israel on hold in January after its assault on the Gaza Strip, in which Palestinian researchers said some 1,300 inhabitants were killed. The assault followed rocket attacks by Hamas militants.

Mr Netanyahu plans to present his new coalition government for parliamentary approval next week.

While he has shied away from backing the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, his

Likud party agreed in a coalition deal with the Labour party to respect all of Israel's international agreements - a formula that includes accords envisaging Palestinian statehood.