Paris cools Sharon row over French Jews

20th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 20 (AFP) - France on Tuesday tried to ease tensions with Israel over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's call on French Jews to flee rising anti-Semitism, as it awaited an explanation for the controversial remarks.

PARIS, July 20 (AFP) - France on Tuesday tried to ease tensions with Israel over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's call on French Jews to flee rising anti-Semitism, as it awaited an explanation for the controversial remarks.  

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, while making clear he was waiting for a reply, pointed out that Paris considered Israel to be a "friendly" nation and reiterated that he would go to the Jewish state later this year.  

"As I speak, we have received no reply to our request for an explanation," he told Europe 1 radio.  

"I'm not going to stir up controversy over a proposed visit, but there is a very serious misunderstanding," the minister said, adding that it was "a matter of honour for our republic ... that each citizen is guaranteed the same protections, the same freedoms, whatever their religious belief."  

On Monday, President Jacques Chirac's office said a planned visit to France by Sharon would not be considered further until there was an official explanation from Israel.   Sharon told an audience of American Jews in Jerusalem on Sunday that French Jews should move to Israel immediately because of growing hostility from the country's five million Muslims.  

France is home to Europe's largest Jewish community, at 600,000 strong.   Israeli officials have played down the remarks, saying it has been the duty of every Israeli prime minister to encourage Jews around the world to consider Israel their home.  

Barnier noted: "In the context of the relations that we want to maintain with the state of Israel and its people -- a friendly people -- we must take the time to make people understand what is really going on in our country."  

The French foreign minister angered Sharon by visiting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat late last month. As a result, he was snubbed by Israeli officials, who systematically refuse to see anyone who meets with Arafat.  

Barnier said Tuesday he would travel to the Jewish state in September or October.  

On the current crisis engulfing the Palestinian Authority, Barnier said it was up to Arafat to "take the right decisions to bring the situation back to normal," adding: "France will never compromise on Israel's security."

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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