France wants Israeli settlement freeze before talks

11th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

France continues to believe Israel must agree to a freeze in settlement building on Palestinian land as a precondition to Middle East peace talks, according to Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

PARIS - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Paris to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday and, according to Kouchner, will receive a strong message that construction on occupied land must stop.

"We think that a freeze on settlements, that's to say no more colonisation while talks are ongoing, would be absolutely indispensable," Kouchner told France Inter radio. "We need talks and the peace process to restart."

The French minister was speaking after Netanyahu held a tense meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House. The United States has also called on Israel to freeze settlement building.

Netanyahu insists he has limited new construction, and has called for an immediate return to talks, but Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has said this is imposible and that he will resign if the deadlock continues.

This in turn could threaten the viability of the Palestinian Authority and dismay Western capitals, where diplomats believe that a strong Palestinian chairman is needed in order to negotiate a lasting peace.

"We need to talk again with Mahmud Abbas, and first and foremost we need him not to resign as he has threatened," insisted Kouchner.

Netanyahu is to meet Sarkozy at 5.30pm (1630 GMT) Wednesday at the Elysee Palace in Paris.


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