France says settlements block Mideast peace

19th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

19 November 2007, JERUSALEM - France believes Israeli settlements in the West Bank are the main obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was quoted as saying in an interview on Sunday.

19 November 2007

JERUSALEM - France believes Israeli settlements in the West Bank are the main obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was quoted as saying in an interview on Sunday.

"I will say in my meetings with Israelis what I have already told them and what France repeats every day -- settlements are not only illegal, politically they are also the main obstacle to peace," he was quoted as saying in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam.

"For the peace process to advance, Israel must bring an immediate stop to this," he said.

Kouchner arrived in Israel on Saturday for a round of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders ahead of an expected meeting at Annapolis in the United States later this month that aims to revive the dormant peace process.

He held talks in Tel Aviv with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday and is due to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem on Sunday.

He will also see Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank town of Ramallah and have talks with special international Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair.

"Nothing justifies more settlements, not natural growth and not security concerns," Kouchner said in the Al-Ayyam interview. "On the contrary, continuing settlements only reinforces a feeling of injustice and adds to insecurity."

He told Israel's Haaretz newspaper that France urged all sides to ensure the US meeting is a success.

"A process that leads to the creation of a viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security with Israel, has been relaunched. It must be given every chance" of succeeding, Kouchner told the newspaper.

"We cannot afford to let another such opportunity fail. Annapolis may just be a small step forward, but it is a response to this."

The French foreign minister said both Olmert and Abbas "understand that difficult compromises will have to be made in exchange for peace and security."

AFP

Subject: French news

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