France calls on Israel to end Arafat confinement

30th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

RAMALLAH, West Bank, June 30 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier called for an end to Israel's confinement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to his West Bank headquarters and held talks with prime minister Ahmed Qorei here Wednesday.

RAMALLAH, West Bank, June 30 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier called for an end to Israel's confinement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to his West Bank headquarters and held talks with prime minister Ahmed Qorei here Wednesday.

"During my two meetings yesterday with president Arafat, I was able take a take a close measure of the fate that he has been subjected to," Barnier told reporters after his meeting with Qorei.

"Considering what he represents, (his situation) is not dignifying for him and is not dignifying for the Palestinian people he represents.

"We consider that this situation cannot last as he is the elected and legitimate president" of the Palestinian people, Barnier added.

Arafat has been confined by the Israeli army to his headquarters in this West Bank town since December 2001 and declared by his arch-enemy, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as an "absolute obstacle" to peace.

Barnier said he "transmitted ... a message of friendship and solidarity" to Arafat and Qorei, as he described Palestinian daily life as "difficult considering the (Israeli army) closures and checkpoints," in and around in the occupied territories.

He also slammed Israel's "destruction" of Palestinian infrastructure and the "wall" which the Jewish state is building along the West Bank and around Jerusalem.

Barnier had called Tuesday for an end to the construction of the barrier which Israel says aims to prevent would-be Palestinian attackers from crossing into its territory.

Palestinians, however, argue the barrier that often juts deep into their territory is nothing but a land-grab and pre-empts the creation of their promised future state.

The Israeli defence ministry, meanwhile, said it would respect a ruling by the country's supreme court on Wednesday and alter the route of the barrier.

The court ordered modifications to the route, ruling that army chiefs had failed to take adequate account of the humanitarian impact of the barrier on 35,000 Palestinians living north of Jerusalem.

Barnier said he had "taken note of the reform efforts exerted by the (Palestinian) president and prime minister," as he lauded finance minister Salam Fayad's "remarkable" work.

He called for more streamlining of the Palestinian Authority's sprawling security services ahead of Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, slated for completion at the end of 2005.

"There is a need to go further towards reorganizing security services ... and I welcome president Arafat's positive declarations yesterday regarding Egypt's contribution which we want to support."

The French minister last week held talks with Egyptian and Jordanian leaders over the pullout from Gaza and from four remote Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank.

He gave his strong support for Egyptian efforts to help ensure security in Gaza after the evacuation and said France was prepared to take part in "an international presence" in the territory - a pledge he reiterated on Tuesday.

Barnier renewed Wednesday the need for Israel to show "gestures" towards reviving the peace process because, he noted, "peace cannot only be achieved with reciprocal and parallel gestures."

He stressed that the Gaza pullout was a "useful step" toward the implementation of the roadmap peace plan.

The troubled roadmap - drafted by the EU, the UN, the US and Russia - envisages the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel by 2005, but has made next to no progress since its launch last year.

Qorei said he and the French envoy had also discussed "administrative and financial reforms as well as reforms in security, and we agreed on the issues we talked about".

Barnier later flew out of Israel's Ben Gurion airport after a meeting in Jerusalem with Latin Church Patriarch Michel Sabbah.

He did not meet any Israeli officials as the government systematically refuses to meet any foreign official whose schedule includes a visit to Arafat.

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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