Pressure Iran, Netanyahu tells Merkel


BERLIN (JTA) — World leaders should pressure Iran just as they do other countries with emerging democratic movements, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Berlin.

Netanyahu met Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in talks described by the two leaders as friendly, constructive and sometimes controversial.

Topics on the table included the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran’s belligerence and the popular protests occurring throughout the Arab world, including the current civil war in Libya. 

"The turbulence began not in Tunisia," Netanyahu said, "but in Iran one-and-a-half years ago," when protesters took to the streets over election results.

The Iranian regime should be getting "the same pressure" as other regimes are receiving, the Israeli leader told reporters following the meeting in the Chancellery.

Merkel, emphasizing her support for a two-state solution, with full recognition of the Jewish state by the Palestinians, said current developments in the region make it "more urgent than ever" that peace talks be restarted.

She added that the approach of the Mideast Quartet — the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union — could make an important contribution by September. The Quartet is set to meet next week in Berlin.

Merkel also discounted recent reports that she had lobbed harsh words at Netanyahu over the issue of Israeli settlements. Netanyahu insisted Thursday that the issue would "not be an obstacle" to achieving a two-state solution once peace talks are restarted.

"It is an issue, but it is not an insurmountable issue," he said, adding later that "the only way we can resolve [all the open questions] is by negotiating."

Noting that Israel is still the only stable democracy in the Middle East, Netanyahu said he "would like to see the other countries in this region move towards democracy. But we can’t be sure … if it is [like the] 1989 change in Europe or the 1979 revolution in Iran. I want to hope that it’s the first, and not the second."

Netanyahu was scheduled to visit Prague later in the day to meet with Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Petr Necas.

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