14 Jun 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he will back a Palestinian state - but only if it is completely demilitarised.

He said a Palestinian state must have no army, no control of its air space and no way of smuggling in weapons.

And a Palestinian state must recognise Israel as a Jewish nation, he said.

Mr Netanyahu's speech, laying out his plans for regional peace, came a month after US President Barack Obama urged him to accept a two-state solution.

The BBC's Paul Wood says Mr Netanyahu broke ground by accepting the principle of a demilitarised Palestinian state, albeit with conditions, and this will be what the White House is looking for.

But our correspondent says the question is whether this will be enough to make up for the lack of movement on the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Obama has stressed that he wants all settlement activity to stop.

But in his speech Mr Netanyahu said settlers were not "enemies of peace" and did not move from his position of backing "natural growth" in existing settlements.

Guarantee needed

The Israeli leader offered to talk to the Palestinians immediately and with "no preconditions".

"We want to live with you in peace as good neighbours," he said.

Mr Netanyahu also said he was willing to go to Damascus, Riyadh and Beirut in pursuit of a Middle East peace deal.

He said Israel would "be prepared for a true peace agreement [and] to reach a solution of a demilitarised Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state".

But only if "we receive this guarantee for demilitarisation and the security arrangements required by Israel, and if the Palestinians recognise Israel as the nation of the Jewish people.



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