Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Sunday, 22 June 2008 19:42 UK

Sarkozy urges Palestinian state

(L to R): Ehud Olmert, Nicolas Sarkozy, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Shimon Peres
The French president has made no secret of his admiration for Israel

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said the creation of a Palestinian state is in the best interests of Israel and its citizens.

On the first French state visit to Israel in 12 years, he said a peace agreement would allow the two peoples to live in peace and security.

Mr Sarkozy is to hold separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Meanwhile, Israel has slightly eased its blockade of Gaza, following a truce with Palestinian militant group Hamas.

An Israeli spokesman said 90 truckloads of food and commercial goods were being allowed into Gaza via the Sufa crossing on Sunday. Normally about 60 trucks make the journey.

'Agreement possible'

Correspondents say the French president's admiration for Israel is in contrast to his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who was widely seen as pro-Arab.

Mr Sarkozy, accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, was greeted on arrival at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Speaking at the airport, Mr Sarkozy said: "I have always been and will always be a friend of Israel...

"An agreement is possible, tomorrow, and that agreement would allow the two peoples to live side-by-side in peace and security."

"I am more convinced than ever that the security of Israel will only be truly guaranteed with the birth of a second state, a Palestinian state."

From the airport, France's first couple headed to Jerusalem for talks with Mr Peres, followed by dinner with Mr Olmert.

On Monday, Mr Sarkozy is due to address Israel's parliament, the Knesset. He plans to travel to the West Bank town of Bethlehem for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

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