France downplays Sharon anger at Arafat talks

5th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 5 (AFP) - Paris on Monday tried to downplay Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's criticism of French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier's talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, instead praising bilateral ties.

PARIS, July 5 (AFP) - Paris on Monday tried to downplay Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's criticism of French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier's talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, instead praising bilateral ties.

On Sunday, during a meeting with French politicians and diplomats, Sharon hit out at what he called France's "unfriendly behaviour" towards the Jewish state after Barnier met with Arafat in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

But French foreign ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous, when asked about the comments, told reporters: "The statements to which you're referring were made at an unofficial meeting. I therefore don't have to comment on them."

"Basically, you know about the length and quality of the Franco-Israeli relationship, which will be in evidence during the bilateral visit Michel Barnier intends to make to Israel in the autumn," Ladsous added.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior Israeli official quoted Sharon as telling the group Sunday that he "was very disappointed by Barnier's visit to Yasser Arafat ... as well as what he and President Jacques Chirac said.

"More and more governments in the world, notably Arab governments, are refusing to meet with Arafat. This meeting gives him political oxygen, when it's necessary for him to be totally isolated to allow the emergence of new Palestinian leaders," Sharon said.

During his Ramallah visit, Barnier called for an end to Israel's policy of confining Arafat to his headquarters, saying the situation was "not dignifying for him and is not dignifying for the Palestinian people he represents."

Arafat has been confined by the Israeli army to his Ramallah headquarters since December 2001 and declared by Sharon to be an "absolute obstacle" to peace.

 

© AFP

Subject: French news

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