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Israeli FM dismisses EU official's peace ideas

Israel's foreign minister today dismissed a call by the European Union's foreign policy chief for UN recognition of a Palestinian state if Israel and the Palestinians fail to reach a peace agreement.

"Peace must be built, not imposed," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio, questioning whether remarks made by the EU's Javier Solana in a lecture in London on Saturday represented the policies of the European Union.

"With all due respect to Solana, he's about to retire ... and we should not overstate the importance of his statement," Lieberman said.

Solana said mediators should set a timetable for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and "if the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the international community should be put on the table".

After such a deadline has passed, he said, "a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution" and accept a Palestinian state as a full member of the United Nations.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks backed by a quartet of international mediators -- the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia -- are currently frozen.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not revive the negotiations unless Israel halts settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, in accordance with a 2003 peace "road map" that also commits the Palestinians to rein in militants.

Lieberman, who heads an ultranationalist party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government, questioned in the radio interview whether Abbas, who holds sway only in the West Bank, spoke for all Palestinians.

"Who exactly does Abu Mazen (Abbas) represent? At best, half the people," Lieberman said, noting the Gaza Strip has been under the control of Hamas Islamists since they took over the territory in 2007 after defeating fighters loyal to Abbas's secular Fatah movement.

In remarks to his cabinet yesterday, Netanyahu repeated a call to Abbas to meet immediately.


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