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Middle East

Middle East

Published on January 12, 2009
Interview given by M. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, to the "Le Parisien" newspaper (excerpts)

Paris, January 11, 2009

GAZA

(…)

Q. - Will Egypt have the means of guaranteeing security at her border?

THE MINISTER - The two players, Israelis and Egyptians, must at least work together. After President Sarkozy’s mediation they have begun to do so. We’re also working to get European observers to return to Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border. For the moment, Egypt and Israel haven’t agreed to this, but lifting the Gaza blockade could entail an international presence.

Q. - Is Mahmoud Abbas the right interlocutor?

THE MINISTER - Yes. He’s a man of peace. He’s the representative and legitimate authority.

Q. - Is it necessary to talk to Hamas?

THE MINISTER - We haven’t got any direct contacts with Hamas, but we’ve got interlocutors who have contacts with them: Norway, Turkey, the Egyptians, Russians, Qatar and Syria. The pro-Fatah Palestinians, themselves, no longer have any contacts with Hamas. We have asked them to heal the rift between them, otherwise nothing will be possible. They could be meeting in the near future.

Q. - The Americans are opposed to such a dialogue…

THE MINISTER - Like the other countries, with the exception of those I’ve mentioned, the Americans are opposed to a dialogue with Hamas. They all refuse to talk to those who are continuing not to recognize Israel and going on killing with rockets. Nevertheless, Hamas represents something vis-à-vis the Palestinian people, so it’s essential for there to be some contacts with them.

Q. - Could there be a major peace conference in Paris?

THE MINISTER - Of course. But at the moment we’re way off that! The Israelis reject the UN Security Council resolution. Yet they know that international public opinion doesn’t understand this. At any rate, they and all the other protagonists in this conflict have confidence in France. She must go on playing her role.

Q. - Even though she no longer holds the European Union presidency?

THE MINISTER - Yes. President Sarkozy made this very plain in his declaration of support for the European Union Czech presidency. I participated in the European troika with the Czechs. We aren’t acting as though we still held the presidency, but in close agreement and harmony with the Czechs. It isn’t a competition with anyone, it’s a competition for peace. (…)./.

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