Juppe in Jerusalem to 'explore' peace talks
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe arrived in Jerusalem late Wednesday on an "exploratory mission" aimed at reviving the stalled talks between Israel and the Palestinians through a peace conference in Paris.
"We are convinced ... that maintaining the status quo in the Middle East would be a serious mistake. Everything is changing in this region, in Egypt, in Syria, so we must move to regain the initiative," Juppe said after meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Rome before embarking on his first trip to Israel and the occupied territories.
"If nothing happens by September, France ... has already indicated that it would draw its own conclusions," he said, referencing French President Nicolas Sarkozy's comments last month in which he said France would "assume its responsibilities on the central issue of recognising a Palestinian state."
Without a breakthrough in the peace process by September, Abbas is determined to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, a possibility that divides the international community.
Juppe is bearing invitations to a peace conference in Paris in late June, and is on "an exploratory mission" looking at "the possibilities of finding a path," to peace, a French official said on condition of anonymity.
On his arrival in Jerusalem, Juppe was met by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whom Juppe told in Paris recently that "the status quo is untenable" in the Middle East.
On Thursday, Juppe will meet Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank city of Ramallah, before holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the parents of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who also holds French citizenship and who has been held hostage for five years by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
© 2011 AFP