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Israeli foreign minister in Rome on European tour

Israeli foreign minister in Rome on European tour

Israel's new foreign minister began a European tour Monday in Rome, where he is expected to face pressure to tone down his rhetoric and commit to peace with the Palestinians.
Avigdor Lieberman _ making first official trip abroad as a member of Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu's hardline Cabinet _ planned to spend two days in Italy before visiting France, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Italy's government, though among Europe's friendliest with Israel, will likely urge Lieberman to soften his stance on the conflict with Palestinians.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that Netanyahu's government must accept a two-state solution for the conflict.
The peace process "must continue on the basis of the principle of two states for two people," Frattini said in the interview published Sunday.
Netanyahu, who took office in March, has so far refused to endorse the idea of an independent Palestinian state _ a cornerstone of the West's policy in the region.
According to a translation of Frattini's interview, provided by Italy's Foreign Ministry, the Italian foreign minister said he would ask Lieberman to "tone down his statements and act to create a climate of collaboration."
Lieberman, who heads the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu, or "Israel is our home" party, has raised concerns in the West with his fiery statements. In his first speech as foreign minister, he said concessions to Palestinians only invite war, and criticized U.S. peace efforts last year.
Lieberman was to meet Frattini on Monday and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday.
Under Berlusconi's conservative governments, Rome has strengthened ties with Israel over the last few years while maintaining good relations with the Arab world.
Italy was among EU countries that recently joined the United States and Israel in boycotting a U.N. conference on racism in Geneva marred by anti-Semitic rhetoric.


Updated : 2021-07-24 01:01 GMT+08:00