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Sixty-sixth United Nations General Assembly /Middle East/UN

Published on September 23, 2011
Press conference given by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (excerpts)

New York, September 21, 2011

The French President devoted the bulk of his speech at the United Nations General Assembly to the question of the Middle East and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You’ll have noted in his speech his desire to create a new dynamic, first of all on the basis of one observation: that the extraordinary upheavals that have taken place in the Arab world – generally called the Arab Spring – make the status quo and a stalemate in the situation more unacceptable than ever.

It’s more necessary than ever to act. We’re saying this to Israel, as a friend of Israel. Everything around Israel has changed: in Egypt, in Syria, and relations with Turkey are strained. There’s no other way for Israel to guarantee in the long term her security, to which France is very deeply committed. You’ll have noted in President Sarkozy’s speech the sentence where he explains that, in the event of a threat to Israel, France would immediately stand by Israel’s side. But – I repeat – the only way to achieve peace and security is by negotiating and concluding a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

We’re saying to our Palestinian friends that we understand their impatience, their desire to act and the steps that led them to bring the matter to the United Nations, but that the procedure they’ve chosen is most certainly doomed to failure.

In these conditions, what can we do and how do we act? I’d like to emphasize the four central themes of President Sarkozy’s proposals.
First of all, changing our method – quite simply because the current method hasn’t succeeded for many years, not to mention decades – and adopting a more collective approach bringing together all those who can help break the deadlock in the situation: that is, most probably, all the permanent members of the Security Council, the European Union and big European states that are not permanent Security Council members, and the main Arab states involved in the region.

Second theme to work on: we must create the conditions for resuming the negotiations. There’s no other possible route in order to achieve peace, guarantee Israel’s security and finally give the Palestinians what they have a right to: namely, a fully-fledged state.

The broad parameters of these negotiations are known; I won’t dwell on them. They’re the Madrid principles, the road map, the Arab peace initiative, President Obama’s speech on 19 May and the parameters agreed by the European Union. Everyone knows the aim of the negotiations, too: mutual recognition of two nation-states for two peoples, established on the basis of the 1967 lines, with agreed and equivalent exchanges of territory. President Sarkozy really insisted that, if we sincerely want to relaunch this negotiation process, we mustn’t set any preconditions. Of course, once they’re sitting around the table again, it will be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to find ways of moving forward and adopting the agreements that will lead to peace.

The third crux of the proposals is that these negotiations mustn’t go on forever. So France is proposing that precise deadlines be set enabling the progress of the negotiations to be assessed: the resumption of talks within a month – there’s no reason to delay –, six months to reach agreement on borders and security, and a year to come to a definitive agreement. Along the way, France is proposing to host a donors’ conference as early as this autumn, which could also make it possible to move ahead with the negotiations.

Finally, the fourth point: as part of this approach, President Sarkozy has proposed to work on raising Palestine’s status within the United Nations and thus take the first step along the path to creating a fully-fledged state by recognizing for Palestine the status of non-member, observer state.

That puts into perspective President Sarkozy’s speech this morning and France’s broad proposals.

President Sarkozy informed President Mahmoud Abbas of them yesterday and, as you’ve doubtless heard, the Palestinians have just stated that their reaction to the French proposals is positive and they’re ready to work on them.

This morning President Sarkozy also met Prime Minister Netanyahu, who noted the French proposals. The Israeli Prime Minister and the French Head of State decided to continue their contacts. (…)./.

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