France ready to join international force in Gaza

21st June 2004, Comments 0 comments

CAIRO, June 21 (AFP) - France is prepared to take part in an "international presence" in the Gaza Strip following a planned Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territory, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said here Monday.

CAIRO, June 21 (AFP) - France is prepared to take part in an "international presence" in the Gaza Strip following a planned Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territory, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said here Monday.

"We have stated our availability to take part, at the appropriate moment, including through an international presence whose format remains to be determined", Barnier said, flanked by his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Maher.

"Europeans as a whole are ready to commit themselves," said Barnier, pointing out that last Friday, the 25-member bloc's summit saw the Israeli withdrawal as an opportunity to relaunch the Middle East peace process.

For his part, Maher said Egypt "needed" France and Europe to play a role in aftermath of the Israeli withdrawal, but said it was premature to say what that role might be.
"It is a little early to specify what this role will be," he added. "We are in the middle of talks".

Egypt has offered to send up to 200 personnel to the Gaza Strip to train a 30,000-strong police force to maintain security in the territory during and after next year's promised Israeli pullout.

"The Egyptian commitment is definitely strategic," said Barnier. "We will support Egypt's role after an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza".

The French minister said the success of the pullout would depend on a "number of conditions," which he listed as public services, security, access to allow the Palestinian territory to function and for people to travel to work.

"We know what we are talking about because in the past we have largely financed (Palestinian) public facilities that now need reconstruction," he said of public services.

He said the European Union was ready to help on all these issues.

Maher and Barnier agreed that the Israeli evacuation should be a first step towards implementing the internationally backed "roadmap" peace plan that envisions the creation of an independent Palestinian state by next year.

"We are certainly talking about a first step," said Barnier.

"The roadmap was approved by the Israelis and Palestinians and it will implemented in phases".

Barnier also said it was up to the quartet of powers backing the roadmap - the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States - to organise a conference and invite anyone able to contribute to peace.

After talks with Maher, Barnier met Egypt's pointman on the Middle East, intelligence chief Omar Souleiman, before seeing Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa in the afternoon.

© AFP


Subject: French news

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