abbas on TV 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner asserted on Friday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's decision not to run for a second term in the January 2010 elections was a "threat to peace" in the Middle East.
France's foreign minister said Abbas's generation was the best hope for settling the Mideast conflict, adding that Abbas's decision was a threat not only to peace, but "for us also."
Kouchner stated that French officials would discuss peace efforts with Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, when both leaders visit Paris next week in order to conduct separate meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said he hoped "the decision by Mr. Abbas is not his final decision."
Kouchner and Davutoglu held talks in Paris on Friday.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry also added its voice to those expressing concern over Abbas's decision, imploring him to run in the upcoming elections and praising his "proven leadership" and ability to renew peace talks, Israel Radio reported later on Friday.
Abbas announced Thursday he was not inclined to run once again for office in the 2010 elections he himself had announced, citing the stalemate in peace talks and "Israel's policy" as a major contributing factor to his decision.
On Thursday evening, after Abbas declared his intention to withdraw his candidacy from the January 24 presidential elections, Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement in which he expressed hope that despite Abbas's declaration, the efforts to commence negotiations and reach a peace deal were essential to Israel's safety and the future of the entire area would not be hampered.
Barak stressed the importance of both sides' continued adherence to the principle of promoting negotiations toward an arrangement. The defense minister reiterated his support of exhausting every effort in order to reach a two-state solution, while safeguarding Israel's security interests.
Also commenting on Abbas's announcement was White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs, who told reporters Thursday that whatever Abbas decided, the US would "look forward to continuing to work with him and to continue in that collaboration to make the lives of Palestinians better."
Gibbs also stressed that "we have tremendous respect for President Abbas. He has been an important and historic leader for the Palestinian people and a true partner for the United States."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacted to Abbas's speech by praising his leadership in working toward the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
She seemingly ignored a question about whether she would try to persuade Abbas to stay on and said: "I look forward to working with President Abbas in any new capacity to help achieve this goal."