Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday French President Nicolas Sarkozy had backed his position that the Palestinians should recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for unlocking the stalled Middle East peace process, dpa reported.
"What I heard from President Sarkozy is that they must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said after talks with Sarkozy at the Elysee palace in Paris.
While the French presidency had yet to confirm or deny his remarks, sources at the Elysee palace told the German Press Agency dpa there had been no change in the French position.
France supports a two-state solution in the Middle East. France has also repeatedly called for the radical Hamas movement, which governs the Gaza Strip, to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, without going so far as to say the Palestinians should recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
At Thursday's meeting Sarkozy had been expected to pressure Netanyahu to take steps to revive the peace process.
In an interview with L'Express news weekly this week Sarkozy had suggested France could recognize a Palestinian state in a vote scheduled to come before the United Nations in September.
"If the peace process resumes during the summer France will say you have to leave the protagonists to discuss without upsetting the time-frame," he told the magazine.
"If, conversely, the peace process remains stalled in September, France will take responsibility on the central question of recognizing a Palestinian state," Sarkozy said.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Sarkozy would make clear to Netanyahu that the "status quo is not tenable."
The talks come after the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, signed a reconciliation accord, ending a bitter four-year dispute.
Juppe had cautiously welcomed the move, which Netanyahu had described as a "tremendous blow" for peace in the Middle East.