ROME (JTA) -- Italy will never recognize a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said.
Berlusconi at a celebration of Israel's 63rd birthday praised the Jewish state as the only democracy in the Middle East. He was the guest of honor Wednesday at an Israeli Independence Day reception hosted by Israeli Ambassador Gideon Meir.
"No, absolutely not," he was quoted as telling reporters when asked whether Italy would recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state.
"I think that there is no other course other than an agreement between the two states," Berlusconi added. "Our policy has always gone in this direction, and it is also the policy of the European Union."
During a speech, Berlusconi said Israel is "the only real democracy in the Middle East and Italy is concerned there are difficult situations for Jews. There can be no solution for your people and your state but peace with your neighbor Palestine."
During the reception, Berlusconi helped cut a large birthday cake frosted with the image of the Israeli flag.
He also strongly reiterated Italy's support for the Jewish state.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is scheduled to make a visit to Israel this month, and Israeli President Shimon Peres will come to Italy in June.
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