France urges swift end to Mideast conflict as MPs debate Palestine

28th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

France's foreign minister Friday urged a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within two years, as French MPs debated a symbolic motion to recognise Palestine as a state.

Laurent Fabius said the United Nations Security Council was working on a resolution to relaunch and conclude talks. "A deadline of two years is the one most often mentioned and the French government can agree with this figure," he told MPs.

The Palestinians are planning to formally submit to the UN Security Council a draft resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territory in 2016.

Fabius also said France was prepared to host international talks to drive the peace bid forward.

"An international conference could be organised -- France is prepared to take the initiative on this -- and in these talks, recognition (of the Palestinian state) would be an instrument ... for the definitive resolution of the conflict," he said.

Fabius did not specify when this conference, also mentioned late Thursday by President Francois Hollande, might take place, nor did he say who might be invited.

"If these efforts fail. If this last attempt at a negotiated settlement does not work, then France will have to do its duty and recognise the state of Palestine without delay and we are ready to do that," stressed Fabius, without fixing a deadline for such a recognition.

Paris has frequently said France would recognise a Palestinian state "when the time comes", arguing that a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict logically implies recognition of Palestine.

The minister's comments came as French lawmakers debated the non-binding motion urging the government to recognise Palestine as a state, amid growing European frustration at the moribund Middle East peace process.

The motion is expected to pass comfortably on December 2 when the lower house of parliament votes on the text proposed by the ruling Socialists.

The vote comes hot on the heels of a similar resolution approved by British lawmakers on October 13, Spanish MPs on November 18 and the formal recognition by Sweden on October 30.

The text of the motion "invites the French government to use the recognition of the state of Palestine as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict".

- 'A message of peace and friendship' -

The Socialist MP who drafted the text, Elisabeth Guigou, said the motion was "a message of peace and friendship addressed to the two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian."

"We want to contribute to the restarting of negotiations ... This is a alarm bell, so that tomorrow, it's not too late," she said.

But ahead of the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned France it would be making a "grave mistake" if it recognised Palestine as a state.

"Do they have nothing better to do at a time of beheadings across the Middle East, including that of a French citizen?" he told reporters in Jerusalem on November 23, referring to hiker Herve Gourdel who was executed by his jihadist captors in Algeria in September.

"Recognition of a Palestinian state by France would be a grave mistake," Netanyahu said.

Reflecting the sensitivity of the subject in France, parliament was divided, with the right-wing opposition UMP party expected to vote against the motion.

France was the scene of several pro-Palestinian demonstrations against Israel during this summer's 50-day offensive by the Israeli army in Gaza that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.

Some of these turned violent, with looters in July destroying Jewish business and shouting anti-Israel obscenities in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles -- sometimes known as "Little Jerusalem" for its large community of Sephardic Jews.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, an advocacy group, said in September that more Jews had left France for Israel than from any other country in 2014, blaming a "climate of anti-Semitism."

© 2014 AFP

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