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Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 16:44 UK

US presses Israel over two states

Joe Biden: "Israel must back a two-state solution"

US Vice-President Joe Biden has said Israel must back a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Mr Biden also called for an end to Jewish settlement-building - one of the Palestinians' key demands.

Israel's recently-elected right-wing government has so far resisted calls to publicly support Palestinian statehood.

Mr Biden's remarks came hours before Israeli President Shimon Peres and US President Barack Obama were due to hold talks in the US capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet President Obama later this month.

Obama's pledge

Addressing the main US Israel lobby, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), Mr Biden said Israel must take concrete measures.

Palestinians protest at expansion of an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank
Palestinians say there is no hope for reviving talks until settlement building stops

"Israel has to work toward a two-state solution. You're not going to like my saying this but not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement."

Mr Biden also said Palestinian militants must halt violent attacks against Israel and release immediately Gilad Shalit - an Israeli soldier seized in a cross-border raid into Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2006.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Aipac that he was willing to resume peace talks with the Palestinians without any delay or preconditions.

Speaking by a satellite link-up, he said political talks should be part of a "fresh" triple-track approach also covering economic and security issues.

However, he made no mention of a Palestinian state as part of a peace settlement.

The Obama administration has made clear its commitment to pursuing a two-state solution "vigorously".



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