June 13th, 2011, 08:10 AM
Berlusconi offers to host peace talks in Sicily
By GIL HOFFMAN
Rejecting merits of unilateral declarations, Italian PM says he'd be happy to host summit; says no contradiction in upgrading Palestinian diplomatic status.
Rome -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered to take personal steps to try to restart stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, telling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday that he would be willing to host negotiations in Sicily.
In a press conference of the two leaders following a meeting that both sides said went well, Berlusconi reiterated his opposition to the United Nations recognizing a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly in September. Berlusconi told Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas two weeks ago that it was a bad idea.
"We don't think a unilateral resolution can help advance peace, not by Palestinians or by Israelis," Berlusconi said. "The way to advance peace is via negotiations. I would be happy to host peace talks here in the city Erice [on the coast of the island of Sicily]." Berlusconi said he supported initiating a Marshall Plan to build a Palestinian state economically. Ten Italian companies have agreed to open factories in the West Bank, and 10 tourism companies agreed to come to the West Bank to encourage Italian tourism. He emphasized the need of the Hamas to accept the demands of the quartet.
Asked why the Italian government recently upgraded the Palestinian representative to Italy to the level of ambassador if Rome opposes unilateral steps, Berlusconi said he did not see a contradiction.
"The goal of this decision was to persuade the Palestinians that they have something to gain from coming to the negotiating table," Berlusconi said.
June 13th, 2011, 08:33 AM