PARIS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
In a statement from the palace, Sarkozy called on the prime minister to take "every trust-building step possible" in negotiations with the Palestinians, including a complete halt to construction in settlements.
He also called on Israel to ease Palestinian movement restrictions in the West Bank. The French president called for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, and said he "saluted Egypt" for its involvement in the ceasefire in Gaza and the reconstruction of the Strip following the IDF operation there.
Sarkozy added that Syria and Lebanon could play a "significantly positive role" in securing peace in the region.
Netanyahu spoke after the meeting of Israel's disagreements with Washington. "We have an unbreakable bond with the US, as President Obama has put it, it's true. We have shared values and a shared faith. There can be differences of opinion between friends," he said.
"I have already said that we will not build (new) settlements or expand the existing ones, but we are seeking to allow the people living there to live. I hope it will be possible to solve the problems with the US, I believe it is possible."
The prime minister called Sarkozy "a friend of Israel and a friend of peace". He said the two had discussed negotiations with the Palestinians, which he said should be founded upon the mutual recognition of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state.
"Sarkozy also stressed the issue of two nation states, Palestinian and Jewish. We need the security that will lead to financial prosperity," Netanyahu said.
He added that "responsible governments" throughout the world agree the Iranian regime should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. "We believe a different, more moderate policy in Iran could bring peace," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said he and the French president had spoken "at length" of Gilad Shalit. "He has been missing for three years, held in some pit or other and no one knows how he is. Please raise your voices for Gilad Shalit," he said.
Netanyahu is scheduled to return to Israel Thursday due to the cancellation of his meeting with the US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell.
A senior official with the Prime Minister's Office stressed that Israel canceled the meeting "due to the need to gather data in order to present it to him in an orderly fashion". He said reports that the US had canceled the meeting were false.