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Israel rejects EU call for Palestinian state deadline

JERUSALEM – Agence France-Presse | 7/13/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Israel rejects the EU call for the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state by a certain deadline even if Israel and Palestinians fail to agree a peace deal.

Israel rejected a European Union call for the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state by a certain deadline even if Israel and Palestinians fail to agree a peace deal.

"A peace agreement can come only following direct negotiations and cannot be imposed," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told public radio.

Lieberman was commenting on a speech by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in London on Saturday in which he called for the international community to set a deadline for recognizing the state of Palestine.

"The mediator has to set the timetable," Solana said, according to a transcript of his speech. "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 a fixed deadline, a U.N. Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution. This should include all the parameters of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements."

"It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the U.N., and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimize the end of claims."

The Israeli foreign ministry also blasted Solana's call, which would effectively impose a solution to the decades-old Middle East conflict, saying a settlement "can only be achieved through negotiations between the parties."

"Any approach that calls for an artificial deadline undermines the prospects of actually reaching a bilateral agreement," it said in a statement.

Israel has come under increasing pressure from its closest ally Washington to take steps in the stalled peace process, such as freezing all settlement activity on occupied land, but the right-leaning government led by hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to do so.

U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to jumpstart the peace process have raised fears in Israel that Washington would lessen its support for the Jewish state as it seeks to repair U.S. relations with the Muslim world.

The Israelis and Palestinians revived peace negotiations at an international conference in November 2007, but the talks were put on ice after Israel launched its war on Gaza in December.

The Palestinians have said they will not return to the negotiating table unless Israel freezes all settlement activity, one of the main obstacles in the hobbled peace process.

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