hamid karzai 298.
(photo credit: AP)
Afghanistan's president said Sunday his government would forge diplomatic ties with Israel if the Palestinians can form a state of their own.
"If a Palestinian state is recognized, we will recognize Israel, we will have relations with Israel. We will have trade with Israel," Hamid Karzai told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
"Israelis are people like we are," he said. "If I have the right to live, and have a home, and have a country, Israel has the right to live and have a country. The only question here is Palestine, because we want the Palestinians to have a home and have a country."
The president said he hoped Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would recover from the debilitating stroke he suffered last week.
"May God give him a longer life," he said.
Israel and Afghanistan never had formal relations.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev welcomed Karzai's statements, saying that Israel hoped it represented something larger in the Moslem world - "a growing understanding that there must be an enhanced relationship between Israel and the Moslem world, a relationship that can only help bring about a just and secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians."
Afghanistan's former Islamic fundamentalist Taliban rulers often lashed out at Israel. The pro-Western Karzai came to power following a US-led invasion of Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Forging ties with Israel would infuriate Afghanistan's neighbor Iran, which has called for Israel's destruction.