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Palestine – International conference/Middle East – Abu Dhabi murder

Published on February 24, 2010
Statements by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority

Paris, February 22, 2010

THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. I want to reiterate to President Mahmoud Abbas how pleased France is to have him here. Bernard Kouchner and I have assured the President of the Palestinian Authority of our complete, total support. He’s the Palestinians’ legitimate representative, he’s a man of peace and we resolutely support him.

We had another conversation on how to break today’s deadlock which has caused so much despair. We find ourselves up against a situation which is all the more incomprehensible and unacceptable in that everyone knows the terms of a definitive peace agreement: two States; Jerusalem, the capital of both States; the Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, a land swap; and a discussion about the refugees. Everyone knows very precisely what’s necessary to get a definitive agreement.

France is committed equally strongly to supporting the creation of a viable, democratic, modern Palestinian State, and to ensuring Israel’s security which is a matter of major concern. Neither has priority over the other. The two priorities are of equal importance. And we think that ending the discussions just plays into the hands of the extremists and complicates and destabilizes those trying to build the peace.

Finally, I’d like to say that, of course, these talks are taking place in total transparency with our American friends, who have kept us informed in detail about their initiatives. I’ll also be going to the United States at President Obama’s invitation for a State visit at the end of March; the dates have been set and will be given to you. President Obama and his wife have invited Carla and me. We’ll have the opportunity to talk about this and many other matters.

I’d like to conclude by telling you that Bernard Kouchner, the Foreign Ministry and I think it’s urgent to resume the discussions.

Q. – My question is to the French President. In the event of a unilateral proclamation of a Palestinian State, would France, as Bernard Kouchner hinted in an interview in yesterday’s “Journal du dimanche”, be ready to recognize this independent Palestinian State?

THE PRESIDENT – Bernard Kouchner has indeed been concerned – and rightly so – about the time all this was taking. And he’s put on the table a number of possibilities, alternatives in the event of things not getting moving again. Our position is pretty simple. We want a Palestinian State since we consider the Palestinians have the right to a Palestinian State. But we have always said: a viable Palestinian State. Viable, because [otherwise can you imagine] a Palestinian State without borders, without [territorial] continuity and with no way of functioning?

What we want when we argue for a Palestinian State is a genuine State, which can give millions of Palestinians hope and a future. It isn’t simply an idea. So in Bernard’s statement there was a way forward, saying: well, if we don’t achieve that, we can signal politically, at the appropriate time, in agreement with our Palestinian friends, the idea of this State, to ratchet things up a notch, so to speak. But the finishing line is a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders with a land swap, as has always been said. So, you see, fundamentally, France’s position is really: a viable, modern, democratic Palestinian State recognizing Israel’s existence and living in peace alongside Israel.

There can also be discussions – between our Palestinian friends and between us – on how best to move things forward, so there isn’t the impression that things are at a standstill. That’s our position on that. Then we would see at that point what we’d do in the event of an initiative like the one you mention, but in any case, you can’t, at one and the same time, say you support President Mahmoud Abbas and want to anticipate the discussions he will himself have with his own friends. That’s a matter for them.


Q. – President Sarkozy, you’ve always argued for an international conference on the Middle East. What’s the position on this? Is it, as we’ve heard in various quarters, that the Americans don’t want it because there’s no progress? Or is it the Russians who don’t want it, who want to monopolize this initiative? Concretely, could one say that in the next few weeks, few months, we’ll have this conference? And will it be a conference between Palestinians and Israelis, or also between the Syrians and Israelis?

THE PRESIDENT – What we’re saying is that if there’s no discussion, regardless of whether or not there’s a conference, we – I mean the international community – run the risk of a third Intifada. That’s what we are saying. That’s why there have to be discussions. Then afterwards, there’s the question of the method. With whom? Who will be the willing facilitator? Secondly, we’re working hand in hand with the Americans. Thirdly, I, Bernard Kouchner and President Mahmoud Abbas and his delegation have talked about possibilities, initiatives – we won’t give you details today, because there’s no point in putting initiatives on the table without having made all the necessary contacts to see if they can work. I think I can say – my friend President Mahmoud Abbas will correct me if I’m wrong – that we agree on the nature of the initiatives we could take together, and in fact are going to take when the time comes.

The utmost has to be done to get the discussions to resume. Time is working against the men of peace. There has been enough suffering in that part of the world. Enough time has been lost and it’s precisely because the prospects are so pessimistic that an initiative has to be taken. If we do nothing, it will be a disaster. What risk do we run by trying? At any rate, France, alongside her friends and President Mahmoud Abbas and alongside the Israelis, wants to help, urge the need for people at last to understand each other and build the peace.


Q. – A question for both presidents. In your discussions did you talk about what happened recently in Dubai, about the elimination of a Hamas leader in circumstances you are no doubt aware of? What details can you give us on this and what do you think about it? Isn’t this, perhaps, another obstacle on the path to peace?

THE PRESIDENT – Last Friday, I spoke to the Emirates Foreign Minister and told him that France categorically condemned what can only be called an assassination. This is clear, simple and cut-and-dried. The investigation being carried out in Dubai shows, moreover, that the commando unit used fake passports of several European nationalities, one of which was French. Israel’s chargé d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Affairs Ministry – Bernard Kouchner will correct me if I’m wrong – about the use of a fake French passport in this affair. And I want to repeat unequivocally that France condemns all executions. You don’t do things like this, especially on the territory of the Emirates which is a country working for peace, rapprochement and cooperation. You must understand that I’m not, in France’s name, condemning it because it took place on Emirates territory. I’m saying that it’s an additional circumstance.

Now an investigation is under way, let’s wait to find out, as President Abbas said, who is behind it. Who was behind it?

As things are at the moment, the Foreign Ministry, with Bernard Kouchner, and I myself have issued a categorical condemnation. This kind of event can only exacerbate tensions and bring nothing positive. France is a democracy and we can’t accept that. And we won’t.

Thank you everyone and thank you President Abbas./.

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