Netanyahu urged to back 2-state solution

Merkel, Brown call PM, urge movement in peace process; Obama backs Saudi peace initiative.

annapolis table 248.88 ap (photo credit: )
annapolis table 248.88 ap
(photo credit: )
As world leaders wrapped up on Friday an economic summit in London aimed at tackling the global financial crisis, a number of them took the opportunity to touch on another contentious issue by calling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and urging him to work towards a two-state solution. Chancellor Angel Merkel phoned the new premier and underlined Germany's commitment to strong relations with Israel, but called on Netanyahu to support the peace process with the Palestinians. According to the chancellor's spokesman Thomas Steg, Merkel stressed German hope that the new Israeli government will continue to support international efforts and agreements aimed at arriving at a two-state solution. Her comments were echoed by British Prime Minister Gordan Brown, who also phoned Netanyahu a short time later, AFP reported. On Thursday night, US President Barack Obama reiterated his support for the Saudi Mideast peace initiative in a meeting with King Abdullah, the White House said in a statement. The February 2002 initiative calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from all territories taken in the Six Day War, including east Jerusalem, and a "just settlement" to the Palestinian refugee crisis in exchange for normalizing ties with the Arab world. The leaders "reaffirmed the long-standing, strong relationship between the two countries," continued the statement after the two met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in London. "They discussed international cooperation regarding the global economy, regional political and security issues, and cooperation against terrorism," it added. Earlier Thursday, a US official stressed that while it may not be easy, his country would push hard for the continuation of the peace process and for the establishment of a Palestinian state. "We're going to be working hard to see what we can do to move the process forward. But we're under no illusions. It's not going to be easy," Reuters quoted US State Department spokesman Robert Wood as saying. Wood explained that the Obama administration was interested in pursuing the two-state solution "because we believe it's in the best interests of all the parties in the region." "We have to engage constantly and remind the parties of their obligations and to try to set up a framework, a process for getting us toward that goal of a two-state solution," Wood added. Wood went on to say that new Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was "well aware" of the US position. On Wednesday, Lieberman told Foreign Ministry employees gathered for a changing of the guard ceremony that "there is one document that obligates us - and that's not the Annapolis conference, it has no validity." The Annapolis process is posited on the idea of negotiating a final status agreement now, which would then be placed on a shelf until a later time when it would became clear that the Palestinians could control the security situation on the ground. "We will never agree to jump over all the clauses and go to the last one, which is negotiations over a final status agreement," Lieberman said. He noted that the agreement included dismantling terrorist infrastructure and setting up working, effective functioning Palestinian institutions. The US State Department spokesman on Thursday also announced that US special envoy to the Middle East, former Sen. George Mitchell, is set go to the region soon. Netanyahu is expected to visit Washington soon, possibly as early as next month, an Israeli official told Reuters. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.