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France/Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – President Sarkozy/Benjamin Netanyahu

Published on September 28, 2010
Statements by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority (excerpts)

Paris, September 27, 2010

THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to welcome President Abbas who once again is honouring us with his presence on his return from New York. His visit is particularly important today since everyone knows we’re at an absolutely crucial moment, a few weeks after the resumption of the direct negotiations.

I conveyed to President Abbas our wholehearted support for his approach, which is a moderate one based on negotiation and the search for a peaceful solution. France is supporting President Abbas because there’s no alternative.

I obviously expressed to President Abbas my concern about the risk of the process launched on 2 September – a process France fully supported – being broken off if we don’t rally round right now.

Obviously, we regretted that the unanimous calls for extending the Israeli moratorium on settlement building weren’t heeded. I deplore this. The freeze existed for ten months; it had to be maintained to give the negotiation every chance of success. I say this in front of President Mahmoud Abbas: the building and expansion of settlements must stop.

President Abbas is going to have consultations within the PLO and with the Arab States. We must all assess this new development and its consequences. I note that since the Annapolis Conference, three years ago, there’s been no significant development in the peace process. So President Mahmoud Abbas and I talked about the method followed up until now which no longer seems to be producing the hoped-for results.

We are alternating between deadlock and attempts to get the process going again. The aim is in no way to criticize anyone at all. Moreover, I want to pay tribute to President Obama’s huge efforts to relaunch the process. But I note that, ten years after Camp David, we’ve made no progress and perhaps even gone a bit into reverse when it comes to the resumption of the dialogue.

Who is benefiting from the fact that we’re marking time? The international community’s inability to resolve this conflict plays into the hands of the radical movements, the violent movements. I’ve already expressed several times the need to involve all the players more effectively in the search for a solution. The Quartet and its members must collectively and concretely exercise their supervisory role. From now on, Europe, the leading donor of assistance to the Palestinians, and the Union for the Mediterranean, which is affected by this conflict, must – this is an imperative – contribute to the political process
So I’d like to take advantage of the next few days to discuss this key issue of the negotiating method with the parties, members of the Quartet and our Union for the Mediterranean and European Union partners. This evening I’ll be talking on the phone to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

We have to learn the lessons from the previous efforts and efficiently relaunch solid negotiations. President Mahmoud Abbas and I both think that there’s a real need for a mechanism to support the negotiations.

We talked about it. We will make proposals together on giving guarantees to these discussions.

Also, we’ve decided to prepare in the best possible way late November’s Union for the Mediterranean summit, which President Mahmoud Abbas and I say must take place whatever happens. We will take initiatives on this and I can tell you that President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, together with the other Union for the Mediterranean President, Hosni Mubarak, have agreed to come to Paris sometime in October.

The meeting will be held before the end of October in order to prepare the Union for the Mediterranean summit in late November. Between now and then France is calling on everyone to demonstrate responsibility and refrain from gestures and decisions which could further reduce the chances of keeping the negotiating process going. I know that this is Mr Abbas’ intention. I saw, with the same aim in mind, Mr Netanyahu’s statements calling for the resumption of the building to be limited. These are moving in the same direction even if it isn’t enough. It’s at these difficult moments, when it has to be everyone’s priority to rescue the peace process, that France and President Mahmoud Abbas are determined to take initiatives. Thank you.

(…)

PRESIDENT SARKOZY/BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

Q. – (…) Final question, President Sarkozy, what are you going to say to Benjamin Netanyahu this evening?

THE PRESIDENT – This afternoon, I shall tell Prime Minister Netanyahu that France understands his coalition problems. Discussion with the different parties without understanding their problems isn’t discussion; on the contrary it complicates negotiations. We mustn’t deny the Prime Minister’s problems. But, secondly, I’m going to tell him – I’ll be frank with him as I’ve always been – that more guarantees have to be given to the President of the Palestinian Authority. This is a key problem. Because if he, the Israeli Prime Minister, has problems with his coalition, it’s understandable for President Mahmoud Abbas – sorry, I don’t want to speak for him – also to have problems with his general public and so he must be given guarantees. I don’t speak Arabic well, but I think the President agrees with what I’ve just said.

And so, for the President to be given these additional guarantees, if we can’t advance much further on the issue on the table, perhaps the Israeli Prime Minister can allow there to be another method of supporting the talks, without feeling threatened by it himself. Do you understand what I mean? If things don’t work one way, we can envisage another which gives guarantees to the President of the Palestinian Authority without threatening the Israeli Prime Minister.

That’s the proposal we’ll be putting on the table.

And moreover, as regards the Union for the Mediterranean, Prime Minister Netanyahu has already told us he was willing to come to Paris in October and President Mahmoud Abbas has given me his agreement today. (…)./.

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