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Middle east

Hollande urges end to Israeli settlement in West Bank

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2013-11-18

French President François Hollande said Israeli settlement expansion was hindering the Middle East peace process when he spoke at a joint press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Monday.

French President François Hollande gave a joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, from Ramallah in the West Bank on Monday. His visit to the Palestinian territories followed meetings with high-level officials in Israel on Sunday.

Hollande, whose country is one of the main international backers of the Palestinian movement, urged Israel to halt settlement expansion because it hindered peace talks.

Hollande wants end to Israeli settlements in West Bank

“In order to bring peace and reach this agreement, France calls for the complete and definitive end to settlements because they threaten a two-state solution,” Hollande said. “I said this to the Israelis as a friend and I say it here to the Palestinians. They must also make efforts to deal with difficult problems.”

Hollande made similar comments yesterday while in Israel, though his main topic with his Israeli counterparts was Iran’s nuclear proliferation. France’s tough stance on Iran is said to have stalled talks between Tehran and western powers in Geneva last week. It’s a stance that has warmed Israeli leaders—locked in a decades long deadlock with Iran— to Hollande and his politics.

For his visit to Ramallah, however, Hollande focused on the faltering Middle East peace talks and the continuation of Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank, which has threatened repeatedly to put an end to the fragile peace process.

While the process continues to remain uncertain, Mahmoud Abbas did reaffirm his commitment to participating in all nine months of the talks, scheduled to run through April.

“We have committed to continue the negotiations for nine months, regardless of what happens on the ground,” he told AFP in an exclusive interview.

Hollande was also scheduled to discuss with Abbas a budgetary support package worth 10 million euros, a training programme for Palestinian Authority staff and the opening of a French high school in Ramallah.

Symbolic visits

Hollande’s three-day tour of the Middle East is filled with both important talks and symbolic visits. In Israel, he placed a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, and placed a stone at the grave of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and his wife Leah.

Hollande wants security for Israel, sovereignty for Palestine

As if to avoid playing favourites in a region scarred by years of bloody warfare, Hollande began his visit to the West Bank with an equally symbolic gesture: by paying his respects at the tomb of Yasser Arafat, who died nine years ago under mysterious circumstances which Swiss experts now say was probably due to poisoning. These parallel gestures mirror France’s purported commitment to compromise in the thorny peace talks.

“France’s involvement to push for the recognition of two fundamental rights didn’t start today,” Hollande said in the press conference. “These are the right to a sovereign state for the Palestinians and the right to security for Israel. These rights aren’t contradictory; they can strengthen each other, because the best guarantee for security and peace for the Israelis is a viable and democratic Palestinian state.”

(France 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2013-11-18

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