The Washington Post
June 12, 2011 - 12:00am

ROME — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Monday that Middle East peace can only be reached through negotiations, keeping to Italy’s position rejecting any unilateral actions such as recognition of a Palestinian state by the U.N. General Assembly.

Berlusconi spoke at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Italy to rally opposition to Palestinian plans to have the General Assembly recognize a Palestinian state in September.

The Italian leader, asked about the Palestinian unity government and a U.N. resolution on statehood, said he didn’t believe unilateral solutions either by the Palestinians or Israel can bring peace.

“Peace is possible only with negotiations,” Berlusconi said.

Italy is one of Israel’s closest friends in Europe, and last month Berlusconi said Italy would only recognize a Palestinian unity government that renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

Frustrated after two decades of off-and-on peace negotiations, the Palestinians have said they would seek recognition for a Palestinian state at the United Nations this fall. The U.S. opposes the plan and Italy, in lockstep with Washington, has said it would reject any unilateral statehood declaration.

Berlusconi offered to host peace talks and said Italy would pick up the bill.

“We expect it would be a long-term negotiation,” Berlusconi said.


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