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'I ultimately like what both parties like'

Trump clarifies: ‘I like the two-state solution,’ but it’s up to the two sides to decide

President, in Reuters interview, elaborates, a little, on his preferred formula for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

US President Donald Trump on Thursday expressed a preference for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but again said he would be happy with any framework acceptable to the two sides, elaborating on comments he made last week at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“No, I like the two-state solution,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, in response to a question on whether he had backed away from that framework, which for decades has been the internationally backed formula for resolving the conflict. “But I ultimately like what the both parties like,” Trump added.

“People have been talking about it for so many years now,” the president went on, and noted: “It so far hasn’t worked.” He then repeated: “I like this two-state solution, but I am satisfied with whatever both parties agree with.”

During his White House press conference with Netanyahu last Wednesday, Trump broke with longstanding US policy by saying two states were not necessarily the only acceptable solution to the conflict. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said.

Also in the Reuters interview, Trump said he would not allow the US nuclear arsenal to fall behind that of other countries, and vowed to keep America “at the top of the pack.”

“I am the first one that would like to see … nobody have nukes,” Trump said, “but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.”

Trump, asked about a December tweet in which he said the US should “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” said that “It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

Trump also spoke of recent North Korean missile tests, saying China must do more to pressure Pyongyang on its aggressive actions. He said Washington may accelerate work on a defense system for Japan and South Korea in light of North Korea’s actions.

“There’s talks of a lot more than that,” he added. “We’ll see what happens. But it’s a very dangerous situation, and China can end it very quickly in my opinion.”

Last week the US warned Russia to respect its arms control treaty obligations amid reports that Moscow had deployed a new cruise missile that may breach them.

According to The New York Times, Moscow has secretly deployed an operational ground-launched cruise missile unit of a type that contravenes a 1987 US-Russia arms control treaty.

The US State Department would not directly confirm the report, but expressed concern that Russia was in any case already in breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

“We do not comment on intelligence matters,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said of the report.

But, citing a 2016 US treaty compliance report, Toner said Russia “remains in violation of its INF Treaty obligations.”

The treaty, signed by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, bans ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

“We have made very clear our concerns about Russia’s violation, the risks it poses to European and Asian security and our strong interest in returning Russia to compliance with the treaty,” Toner said.

“We value the INF Treaty and believe it benefits the security of the United States, our allies, our partners and the Russian Federation.”

The previous US administration under president Barack Obama had already complained that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia violated the INF Treaty by testing a banned cruise missile.

Now, according to the Times’ report, the missile has been deployed to active units, including one at a test site in Kapustin Yar in southwest Russia.

Putin has defended Russia’s test program, arguing the United States is also in breach of the INF Treaty and that new missiles are needed to maintain the balance of power.

The United States and its NATO allies are deploying an anti-missile shield in eastern and central Europe that Moscow sees as a threat to its nuclear deterrent.

Washington insists the interceptor shield is designed to protect Europe from so-called “rogue states” such as Iran.

AFP contributed to this report.

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