Visit to the Middle East
FRANCE/PALESTINE/NEW INTERNATIONAL DONORS’ CONFERENCE
Q. – What message are you taking to President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad? Are there any new political ideas or financial support and economic development projects?
THE MINISTER – I was keen to pay this visit to the region as soon as possible after I took office as Minister of Foreign and European Affairs. I’ll be meeting President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Saturday. I’ll tell him again of France and President Sarkozy’s resolute support for the establishment of a sovereign, independent, viable and democratic State of Palestine by the end of 2011, in accordance with the target set by the Quartet. We’re convinced that this is not only the natural outcome for the Palestinian people’s legitimate national aspirations but also the best guarantee of Israel’s long-term security.
On the economic and financial dimension, I’ve invited Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Co-Chairs of the Paris Conference for the Palestinian State (my Norwegian counterpart Jonas Støre, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton and Quartet Special Representative Tony Blair) to a follow-up dinner on 3 February in Paris.
At it we’ll discuss, among other things, the holding of a new international donors’ conference.
I want here to reiterate the success of the donors’ conference held in Paris in December 2007: over the three years covered by the conference, $7.7 billion has been disbursed, every form of aid taken into account, including 4.3 billion of budget aid to the Palestinian Authority.
It’s thanks to this unprecedented mobilization of the international community, combined with the Palestinian government’s will to reform, that the State of Palestine is actually being built, day in day out.
We’re willing to organize a new conference in France, but this can’t be successful without genuine political momentum. It’s up to us to build this momentum, which calls for everyone’s efforts – particularly those of France and the European Union, alongside the United States – so that the two-State solution finally becomes a reality.
It’s this message of political ambition and support for the institutions that I’ll be taking to the Palestinian leaders. (…)
Q. – Israel is continuing her policy of Judaizing Jerusalem and recently destroyed an important historic relic, the Shepherd Hotel. Faced with this, what does the European Union, of which France is a key member, intend doing, apart from issuing statements and condemning, given that the European Union’s representatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories recently made recommendations on this?
THE MINISTER – France condemned the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem on 9 January. We believe this act undermines the prospect of a lasting settlement of the conflict, in which Jerusalem is destined to become the capital of both States, Israel and the future State of Palestine. The European Union clearly said this in the Foreign Affairs Council of 13 December 2010: the settlements, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. Unilateral measures which prejudge the status of Jerusalem are unacceptable. (…)
Q. – Why don’t the European Union States, with France foremost among them, start by recognizing the Palestinian State based on the [pre-]1967 borders?
THE MINISTER – I think we’ve got to distinguish between two things: the parameters which must provide a framework for negotiations on the borders, and the recognition of the Palestinian State. As regards the borders, the European Union very clearly reiterated its position in December 2009, by saying that it won’t recognize any change to the [pre-]1967 borders which isn’t agreed by the parties, including with regard to Jerusalem.
On the second point, in the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of 13 December 2010, the European Union affirmed its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian State. However, the priority today is to resume the negotiations urgently in order to reach a final agreement ensuring a lasting settlement of the conflict, the end of the occupation and the viability of the Palestinian State. (…)
Q. – Israel is talking of waging a new war on the Gaza Strip, while the blockade continues: what’s France doing to prevent an escalation of the situation?
THE MINISTER – We’re worried about the increasing number of rocket attacks from Gaza since the end of last year. We firmly condemn them. We call on the parties to show the utmost restraint in order to avoid further tragedy. I’ve scheduled a visit to Gaza on Friday morning to get a first-hand idea of the situation on the ground.
As you know, France is constantly present in Gaza, through her cultural centre, and I’m due to visit the very site where we’re going to build a new, bigger, more functional, more suitable centre. Gaza is a priority of our cooperation in Palestine. France devotes to it 30% of her bilateral aid to the Palestinian Authority. She finances many projects there, such as the rebuilding of the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City and the construction of the Beit Lahya water purification unit, as well as action to support the productive sector – be it fishing, agriculture or information technology. (…)./.