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Official speeches and statements - January 17, 2017

Published on January 17, 2017
1. Israel - Palestinian Territories - Middle East Peace Conference - Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (Paris, January 15, 2017)

1. Israel - Palestinian Territories - Middle East Peace Conference - Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (Paris, January 15, 2017)

First of all I want to thank you for attending this conference in such large numbers, in response to the invitation I sent you a year ago—because a year ago, France decided to take an initiative for peace in the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has tirelessly championed this effort to create a prospect [for peace]. And I myself have talked to most of the heads of state and government in the region and beyond.

There was the ministerial meeting on June 3, 2016; it was an important step, because today we’re meeting in the framework of this conference.

The initiative France launched, to which you’ve fully subscribed, was first of all an alarm call, because the two-state solution, on which the international community has agreed for years, seems to be under threat.

It’s under threat physically on the ground because of the speeding-up of settlement activity; it’s under threat politically because of the gradual weakening of those on the side of peace; it’s under threat morally because of the growing distrust between the parties, which the extremists of course exploit. Finally, it’s under threat because of the terrorists themselves, who have always feared the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

The attack that hit Jerusalem on 8 January is the most despicable manifestation of it and deserves to be condemned by everyone.

That’s why it was so important to take and retake the initiative. Admittedly, the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and the fight against Daesh [so-called ISIL] have rightly mobilized the international community in recent months, and indeed recent years. And they may have led people to think it was less urgent to worry about the Middle East peace process, and that it could wait.

But how can we think the Middle East can regain its stability unless we deal with its most long-standing conflict? For it continues to serve as a pretext for the criminals who recruit those who have gone astray.

That’s why the world cannot, must not resign itself to the status quo. Your presence today, with 70 countries and international organizations represented, is proof that we’re not giving up at all and that we want to move forward.

There was the report of July 1, 2016 by the Quartet made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, which had already warned the world of the risk that a one-state reality might take hold.

Then there was the Security Council resolution, adopted with no opposition among its 15 members, which reaffirmed the international support for the two-state solution. That’s a point of reference for us all.

I also welcome what John Kerry has said in recent days, which has once again strengthened this realization.

In the region, I note that the two-state solution still enjoys widespread support, over and above the often significant differences that may exist on other issues. And what’s valid for the region is also valid for the world.

The two-state solution isn’t a dream of a bygone system: it’s still, it’s always the goal of the international community, in all its diversity, for the future.

So through this conference, I’d like to put the Middle East issue on the international agenda. But I want to be clear about our intentions. There’s no question of dictating the parameters of a settlement to the parties, as some people have demanded in an effort to discredit our efforts. I repeat here that only direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will take their place.

It’s up to their leaders to come to an agreement and persuade their peoples of the necessary compromises. I remind you that, in the past, progress has always resulted from discussions, and deadlock always from a lack of dialogue.

Our contribution today must be to provide guarantees and encouragement. This was what we already wanted to do through the 3 June meeting, with discussions held in three working groups—which you’ve continued today—, on the economic aspect, the issue of the future Palestinian state’s capabilities and the active role of Israeli and Palestinian civil society.

To this you’ve added a discussion about what incentives the international community could provide to both parties in the event of the conflict being resolved. This method has enabled us to identify many projects, public and private, in the field of urban infrastructure, transport and energy.

This work has also highlighted the strengthening of economic and trade relations that peace between the two parties would bring; and the special partnership with the European Union, which could be extended further.

I know what’s been said about this conference. There are always skeptics - there are a lot of them; there are people who never want any initiative to be taken because they’re preparing another one.

I know what’s been said about this conference: that it’s probably naïve; how can we contemplate talking about peace today when war is tearing much of the Middle East to pieces?

It has even been said that it was probably futile, almost as if we were coming here to add an extra touch of atmosphere to international relations.

I can say to you here with certainty that it would be naïve to believe that a rapprochement between Israel and its neighbors, which is so necessary, is possible without making progress on peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

And it would be cynical to sink deeper into the status quo, and then hope the situation breaks down, justifying every excess.

There comes a point when the international community must reiterate not just its duties to peace, but also the rights attached to peoples, and, above all, reiterate what’s at stake in terms of security: security for Israel, security for the whole region, and security for the Palestinians as well.

Our initiative is designed to be useful. It’s designed to help, not complicate matters. It’s designed to unite, not divide.

Over the past year we’ve had many consultations and regular meetings. We’ve involved 150 Israeli and Palestinian organizations in our work, and we’ve seen that people have always shown goodwill. This willingness must lead those in charge to take on their responsibilities.

We’re also acting for world stability, and we have no other interest. We would all suffer if the peoples of the Arab and Muslim worlds, for various reasons, abandoned the two-state solution.

That’s our message; it comes at a time when a new administration is getting ready to take office in Washington. More than 20 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, everyone must be clearly aware of the lesson history has taught us. Everyone must clearly understand what’s at stake and that nothing can be improvised or drastically changed.

An effort was begun years ago; it must continue. It’s legitimate, it’s necessary for the international community to give serious thought to the best way of supporting the two-state solution. And I maintain here that this solution is the only one possible for peace and security.

I thank you all for contributing through your presence, your work and your inspiration in Paris today.

Thank you.

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