France to back 'moderate' Israel settler resolution

20th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

France will vote for a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements drafted by Arab states if it is moderate and does not halt a resumption of peace talks, its foreign minister said Thursday.

"If this resolution is moderate and if it does not block the resumption of (peace) negotiations, we will certainly vote for it," Michele Alliot-Marie said following a day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Alliot-Marie is on a four-day tour that also includes the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan, her first tour of the region since being appointed in November.

Her trip comes as world powers seeks ways to haul Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after talks broke down late last year over a dispute about Jewish settlements.

"We have to move toward peace, it is in the interest of everyone and in the interest of Israel's security," she said before talks with Israeli leaders.

Direct peace have been on hold since September, when a 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank expired.

The Palestinians are refusing to resume negotiations while Israel builds on land they want for their future state, but efforts to convince Israel to impose a new ban failed late last year.

On Wednesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement building is to be put to the vote in February.

"Our position is one of being opposed to settlements; this is for certain," Alliot-Marie told reporters.

"We must see how the proposed resolution is drafted," she added. "If the terms are moderate and, above all, if they do not close the door to a possible resumption of negotiations, it is possible that we would vote for it."

Erakat said the UN Security Council would vote after a meeting of the Middle East Quartet.

The Quartet's members -- Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations -- are to meet on February 5 in Munich, Germany.

The French minister first met with opposition chief Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres.

"If we want to have a relationship based on trust, we must push forward with the negotiations and with practical steps," she said. "Israel's security will be guaranteed all the more when a stable Palestinian state exists."

Peres, in remarks broadcast by public radio, acknowledged "difficulties in the peace process," but said they were no reason to "stop the process or to give up."

Following lunch with Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, Alliot-Marie met Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad in Jerusalem.

During the evening, she met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before dinner with Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu told her Israel will work to end Gaza's dependency on his country.

"During their conversation ... Netanyahu said that Israel would strive to disengage from the Gaza Strip with regard to infrastructure utilities like electricity and water," a statement said, providing no further details.

Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but still supplies some 70 percent of the strip's electricity, with the rest being provided by Egypt and local power plants.

It was not immediately clear where Gaza would get its electricity if Israel cuts supplies.

On Friday, Alliot-Marie is to travel to Gaza in what will be the first visit by a French foreign minister since 2005.

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2006 after militants there kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and tightened it a year later when Hamas seized power in the territory.

It partly lifted that blockade last summer. Alliot-Marie called on Israel to fully apply the terms of that partial lifting and also to facilitate a wider range of exports from the territory.

During the day, Alliot-Marie also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, and met briefly with the parents of Shalit, who has French citizenship and who has been held in Gaza since his kidnap.

During a meeting with Noam and Aviva Shalit, Alliot-Marie promised "to pass on a message (to the EU) that the prisoner should receive Red Cross visits."

© 2011 AFP

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