France/Middle East peace process
THE MINISTER – I also came here to talk about the political situation. It’s a cliché to say everything around us is changing: everything’s changing in the Middle East, everything’s changing throughout the Arab world, from Morocco to the Gulf, very clearly in Egypt, in Syria too, and I think that for all these reasons the status quo here in the Middle East too, between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is no longer tenable. We’re convinced that unless something happens between now and September, the situation will be very difficult for everyone when the United Nations General Assembly meets. So we must take an initiative, and that’s what France is trying to encourage, particularly with this visit I’m paying to the region.
What initiative? Judging by the discussions we had in Deauville, there’s quite a lot of agreement today between the Americans, Russians, European Union and United Nations, who make up the Quartet, and within the EU in particular, that we must get back around the negotiating table. Only through negotiations can an effective and lasting solution be envisaged that brings peace. Those negotiations could be carried out based on simple parameters, the details of which we don’t want to get into, but which constitute a solid and globally agreed framework, particularly in the light of President Obama’s speech a few days ago.
These parameters could be as follows: initially talking about the borders on the basis of the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps and, simultaneously, guarantees of security to be provided to both states; then, in a second phase, discussing the issues of refugees and Jerusalem. When I say in a second phase, it’s not with a view to postponing it indefinitely: we’d like to set a period of one year. That’s the proposal we’re putting on the table; I talked about it to President Abbas yesterday and Prime Minister Fayyad today, and I’ll talk about it to Prime Minister Netanyahu this afternoon.
If we receive positive reactions following this initiative, we’ll be ready, on the basis of a call by the Quartet, to organize – here in Paris between now and the end of June or the beginning of July, but in any case before the end of July – a conference that wouldn’t merely be confined to bringing the donors together but could be a broader political conference launching this negotiation process.
That’s what I’ve come to say. Of course, France doesn’t claim to be able to solve problems that have existed for decades, but we think it’s a matter of urgency and every chance must be seized. That’s what we’re trying to do, by making ourselves available to the different sides, of course, to explain this proposal in the coming days. I’ll have an opportunity to go to the United States on Monday to talk to Hillary Clinton about it; we’re in contact, of course, with our European and Russian partners. In short, it seems to me there’s a window of opportunity and we don’t have the right to let it slip by. (…)
Q. – Did President Abbas agree unconditionally to the idea of a peace conference in Paris, or did he set conditions? Why do you think France could change things when Washington can’t do anything?
THE MINISTER – I met President Abbas yesterday and told him about the proposal; I talked to Prime Minister Fayyad about it today; I wasn’t expecting answers within the hour. We’re going to give ourselves a few days to go into the proposal in greater depth and present it to the Israeli side this afternoon. We’ll see – within what I hope will be a brief period: not in six months but in the coming days – whether the reaction of the different sides is positive and whether it paves the way for subsequent progress. Moreover, France is in no way seeking to replace anyone, particularly the Americans.
The Americans have a very important role to play in this process. They won’t achieve it alone, and that’s why the European Union is determined to get involved and, within the EU, France. We think President Obama’s speech is an interesting breakthrough. We saw in Deauville, as I said just now, that between President Obama, President Medvedev, President Sarkozy, the other European partners, the United Nations Secretary-General, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission – in short, all those who make up the Quartet - there was a lot of agreement, first of all about the need to do something – we can’t remain in deadlock, we must make a move – and secondly about the road map that would enable an end to the deadlock. That’s where we are. We’re trying to help, we’re trying to support this process, and I hope something will happen over the coming month. That’s the timetable we’ve set ourselves./.