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Exclusive with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas

The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, sat down for an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, as the international community looks to autumn 2011 as a deadline for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

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The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, sat down for an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 while on an official visit to Paris Thursday before meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to discuss the Palestinian Authority’s bid to become recognised as an official state.

Following the meeting, France’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, declared during a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East that France and its European partners were actively thinking about such a recognition.

The international community has declared its aim of creating a Palestinian state by the 2011 UN general assembly. Several Latin American countries have already recognised a Palestinian state.

But profound disagreements between the Israelis and Palestinians threaten to disrupt the UN timeline. Chief among them is the matter of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The following are highlights from the FRANCE24 Mahmoud Abbas interview:

On international recognition

“We can’t say that certain organisations or countries promised to recognise a Palestinian state. But all the signs they are sending show that they are awaiting the right moment to do so. You notice that a certain number of European countries have recently sent additional delegations and official representatives to the Palestinian territories. From our side, we are already treating them like ambassadors.”

On the possible failure to establish a Palestinian state
“If the international community does not want to recognise a Palestinian state, we will assemble all the political leaders from our country to discuss options and the next step. And frankly, I don’t know what that step would be. But it would be difficult and dangerous.”

On Netanyahu
“All the polls show that three-quarters of Israelis support peace. I’ve met a lot of Israelis in Ramallah. Officers, political officials, journalists … they believe in peace. As for [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, we have been in discussions with him for a long time. But we have not succeeded in convincing him to stop the settlements, nor to begin negotiations with the border issue. He wants to start negotiations with the security issue, which is illogical.”

On the assassination of an Italian activist in the Gaza Strip
“I think that certain extremist groups have emerged in the Gaza Strip. They are gravitating around Hamas, but are not part of Hamas. These may be dissidents, or they perhaps came from outside. It seems that these are the people responsible for the assassination of the Italian activist, an odious act that is not in accordance with Palestinian traditions.”

On resistance to Israel
“A third intifada is not my preference, it’s not our plan. As president of the Palestinian Authority, I’ve committed myself to not letting that happen. But peaceful resistance is allowed. We see that every day, with Palestinians, Europeans and even Israelis.”

On Hamas and Fatah
“All the efforts to reconcile Fatah with Hamas did not come to anything. One month ago I suggested going to Gaza to form a panel of government experts that would be in charge of setting the date for the next legislative and presidential elections. This initiative has been very well received by the entire world. But Hamas has not given its official response. We are still trying to push this initiative as a means of reconciliation. We need to reunify the country, because as Palestinians we cannot declare ourselves an independent state if we are divided.”

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