France asks Israel to 'freeze' Jewish settlements
President Nicolas Sarkozy asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to impose a "total freeze" on Jewish settlements.Paris – French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to impose a "total freeze" on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a presidency statement said.
"The president of the republic called on Israel to immediately take all possible measures to encourage confidence" in its talks with the Palestinians, "beginnning with the total freeze of settlement activities," it said.
Netanyahu, on his first visit to Europe since taking office in April, flew into Paris from Rome for one-on-one talks with Sarkozy, amid reports of a fall-out with Washington over Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu had been due to meet US Middle East envoy George Mitchell here but the talks were called off amid reports -- denied by Israeli officials -- of a clash over its refusal to stop building more settlements.
Sarkozy, keen to act as a Middle East peace-broker, has previously welcomed as "an important step forward" Netanyahu's landmark endorsement of a Palestinian state, despite a raft of conditions rejected outright by Palestinian leaders.
But Paris like Washington is insisting on a complete halt to Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, which the Israeli leader has so far refused to order.
The Palestinians have said they will not meet Netanyahu until Israel halts all settlement activity. The presence of 280,000 Israelis in more than 100 settlements across the territory has been a major obstacle to peace efforts.
The international community considers all settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Six Day war, to be illegal.
AFP / Expatica