French foreign minister to Mideast from Tuesday

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is to go to the Middle East from Tuesday with a message from President Nicolas Sarkozy telling Israel and the Palestinians that peace is now "within reach."

"He will be in Israel and the Palestinian territories from June 1 to 3," foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said Friday.

Juppe will take a message that "peace has waited too long," Sarkozy told journalists at the G8 summit in the French resort of Deauville Thursday, adding that the current Middle East stalemate was untenable.

"The parameters for peace are perfectly well known and more time passing does not favour men of peace, it favours terrorists and extremists," he said, hailing the "good news" of a reconciliation deal between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Juppe will ask the Palestinians if a new government which is being formed will call into question the recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace and security, Sarkozy said, and will urge Israel to relaunch stalled peace talks.

The talks have been on hold since September 2010, when they ground to a halt over ongoing Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

© 2011 AFP

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