US President Donald Trump has endorsed a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine for the first time since taking office.
Mr Trump told reporters as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN, that he believes two states — Israel and one for the Palestinians — “works best”.
He has previously been vague on the topic, suggesting that he would support whatever the parties might agree to, including possibly a one-state resolution, which might see the Palestinian territories become part of Israel.
“I like two-state solution,” Mr Trump said as he posed for photographs with Mr Netanyahu. “That’s what I think works best. That’s my feeling. Now you may have a different feeling. I don’t think so. But I think two-state solution works best.”
Mr Trump later told a news conference that reaching a two-state solution is “more difficult because it’s a real estate deal” but that ultimately it “works better because you have people governing themselves”.
He added that he would still support Israel and the Palestinians should they opt for a one-state solution, though he believed that was less likely.
He said: “Bottom line: If the Israelis and Palestinians want one-state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy.”
In his earlier comments, Mr Trump said his much-anticipated but still unreleased Middle East peace plan could be presented in the next two to four months, but was not specific as to timing.
Mr Trump has been heavily criticised by the Palestinians for a series of moves that they say show distinct bias toward Israel, starting with his recognition last year of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Palestinians also claim the holy city as the capital of an eventual state. Earlier this year, Mr Trump followed up on the recognition by moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that was widely protested by Palestinians and others in the Arab world.
His administration has also slashed aid to the Palestinians by hundreds of millions of dollars and ended US support for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees.