Israel's membership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development can help restart Middle East peace talks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Thursday.
Speaking in Paris after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally accepted membership at a ceremony at the organization's headquarters in Paris, Berlusconi, who chaired the meeting of OECD ministers, said that the move should help drive the peace process.
"I think that joining the OECD can also, with the various Palestinian parties, give a push towards a resumption of negotiations or pre-negotiations," he told a news conference.
Slovenia and Estonia also formally joined the club of free-market democracies, in a move they hope will boost their international standing.
Israel's membership has been the most controversial, given criticism in Europe and elsewhere of its treatment of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas has made no attempt to block the membership but the ceremony came as Palestinians stepped up protests against products made by Jewish settlements built on West Bank land.
"Value creation in the settlements should not be included by Israel in the data submitted to the OECD or any organization," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters.
"Doing so would implicitly accept...value creation produced outside of Israel as if it were Israel," he said.
However, Netanyahu said moves towards more stable economic structures could help peace.
"I think the economic peace that we're seeking to fashion with our Palestinian neighbors can help sustain the political peace and can actually facilitate it," he said.