Barnier heads to US with Mideast agenda

3rd April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 2 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Saturday that the Israeli-Palestinian question would be "at the top" of his agenda in meetings next week with his US counterpart Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

PARIS, April 2 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Saturday that the Israeli-Palestinian question would be "at the top" of his agenda in meetings next week with his US counterpart Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The "new dynamic" toward peace in the Mideast remains fragile and needs to be nurtured by "concrete gestures," Barnier said at a joint press conference with Palestinian foreign minister Nasser al-Qidwa.

"For us, the peace which is possible and which is necessary in the Middle East remains at the head of the agenda in the discussions between Europeans and Americans," Barnier said, adding that a recent speech by US President George W. Bush in Brussels expressed the "same spirit."

Barnier is scheduled to be in the United States April 7-9, the French foreign ministry announced.

During his meetings with US officials, Barnier said he would "review with the US government our common efforts to maintain and preserve this dynamic of dialogue and discussion."

Barnier saluted Israel's "courageous commitment" to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, but added that he was waiting for "other gestures," notably related to security issues and the release of Palestinian prisoners. He also cautioned against that a resurgence of Jewish settlements might weaken the whole process.

The Palestinian foreign minister expressed gratitude for France's aid and assistance, and said that "the French position and the European position on the illegal measures being taken in Jerusalem are very clear."

"We are convinced that France will respect international law," he said, paying his first bilateral visit outside the region of the near and Middle East since taking office after new Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas replaced his uncle Yasser Arafat, who died in Paris last November.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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