NEW YORK – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said that direct negotiations was the only way to achieve a stable Middle East peace, maintaining that the Palestinian effort to secure UN recognition of statehood "will not succeed."
Moments before his joint meeting with US President Barack Obama in New York, Netanyahu lauded the American leader for reiterating the unwavering US commitment to Israel during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
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During their joint press conference, Obama reiterated his commitment to Israel, saying "I think it's fair to say that today our security cooperation is stronger than it has ever been.
"Peace cannot be imposed – it has to be negotiated. Israelis and Palestinians sitting down together and working through these very difficult issues that have kept the parties apart for decades now; that is what I know is the ultimate goal for all of us – two states, side by side, living in peace and security," he added.
Obama noted that "recent events in the region remind us how fragile peace can be, and why the pursuit of Middle East peace is more urgent than ever."
Netanyahu thanked Obama "for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations. We both agree that this is the only way."
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The prime minister noted that "Palestinians deserve a state, but it's a state that has to make peace with Israel, and therefore the attempt to shortcut this process will not succeed.
"I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through the international community, but they are not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return," he added.
In their meeting, Netanyahu and Obama are expected to discuss the diplomatic efforts to thwart the UN recognition of a Palestinian state.
During his speech, Obama said that the Palestinians deserved a state of their own, but that this would only be achieved through negotiations.
"I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN," Obama said.
"Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians -- not us -- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem," he added.
Earlier, In the opening speech, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an international effort to end the "impasse" in the Middle East, referring to the decision of the Palestinians to seek full membership at the UN.
Ban pledged that for its part, the United Nations would work "tirelessly" to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"In the Middle East, we must break the deadlock. The Palestinians deserve a state. Israel needs security. Both want peace," he added.
Yitzhak Benhorin and Reuters contributed to this report
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