Kouchner, Moratinos seek to break Mideast peace deadlock
The French and Spanish foreign ministers are to meet on Monday with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Jordan, on a regional tour aimed at breaking the deadlock in peace talks and boosting Europe's role.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos are to hold talks with Abbas after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Kouchner met on Sunday with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, at the start of a two-day regional tour with Moratinos.
Jordanian officials said the visit seeks to enhance Europe's political role in the Middle East peace process.
"The European countries want to be more involved, not only financially but also politically," said one official.
Before traveling to Amman, Moratinos and Kouchner held an early breakfast meeting in Jerusalem with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad.
"If we didn't have a role, if we didn't have any weight, if we didn't have any influence, maybe our friend Lieberman wouldn't have reacted as he did," Moratinos told reporters.
He was referring to an outburst late on Sunday by Israel's outspoken Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during a dinner with his European guests.
"Before coming here to tell us how to solve our conflicts, I would expect you could have at least solved all the problems within Europe," Lieberman told Kouchner and Moratinos in comments widely published in the Israeli media.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called in September for the European Union to have a greater role in the faltering US-led Israel-Palestinian peace talks, saying current efforts were not working.
On Sunday, Kouchner told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam that France preferred a two-state solution to be negotiated with Israel but an appeal to the UN Security Council to resolve the conflict remained a possibility.
"We want to be able to soon welcome the state of Palestine to the United Nations. This is the hope and the desire of the international community, and the sooner that can happen the better," he said.
"The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock. I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option," he added.
"But the establishment of the Palestinian state must come as a result of the peace process and be the fruit of bilateral negotiations."
Kouchner and Moratinos called in February for an international summit to recognise a Palestinian state.
But a Western diplomat in Amman told AFP on Monday that "this is a symbolic way to lobby for recognition of a Palestinian state, but it does not resolve the question on the ground."
Kouchner told reporters in Israel that the European Union, the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, should play a more prominent role in the peace process.
Following a meeting with Netanyahu, he was more upbeat. "Despite the differences of analysis, what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told us was encouraging," said Kouchner.
The Israeli leader was still seeking an agreement which would satisfy both the Palestinians and the Israeli people, he said.
But Abbas has told Arab foreign ministers that he would consider alternative options, including appealing to the Security Council, if peace talks remained stalled over Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land.
Israel has rejected Palestinian and international demands to extend a 10-month moratorium on new settler homes that expired last month despite Abbas ruling out any further talks until settlement activity is halted.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, France, like the United States, Britain, Russia and China, would be able to veto any measure calling for recognition of a Palestinian state in territories occupied in 1967.
© 2010 AFP