'France could have great role in Israeli-Arab talks'

Liberman tells French counterpart Paris could play historic part in facilitating dialogue between Israel, moderate Arabs.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told his EU colleagues at the annual EU-Israel Association Council meeting in Brussels Monday that the settlement issue was not the reason the diplomatic process with the Palestinians had stalled, and that the EU – always quick to blame the settlements – should take a look at Palestinian policy.
Israel’s position is that while Jerusalem is willing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions, it is the PA that is piling on conditions to keep the talks from being launched.
The EU-Israel Association Council meeting provides an opportunity for the sides to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues.
Israeli officials said that contrary to reports, there was no significant discussion about an EU upgrade for Israel. The wideranging boost in bilateral ties that would come from an upgrade was frozen since Operation Cast Lead and has since been linked to progress in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. That freeze, according to Israeli officials, remains in place.
France’s new foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, was one of the numerous EU foreign ministers Liberman met in Brussels.
A statement put out by Liberman said he told his French counterpart that while radical elements in many Middle East states have gained strength, the Arab Spring has also brought a young, educated and liberal force to the fore in those countries. He added that those forces understand that their problem is not Israel or the Jews, but poverty, oppression and the huge gap between rich and poor.
“The greatest danger to these new forces is radicalism and the militant groups identified with jihad, Iran and al-Qaida, he said.
Liberman said that France could have a historic role in shaping the new Middle East by acting as a bridge between the young liberal Arab forces and Israel.
“Israel would be happy to accept the services of France in organizing meetings and establishing a dialogue with those new forces,” he said. “This connection could facilitate the creation of understanding based on humane, universal values.”
The two also discussed the situation in Syria, with Liberman saying that Israel had refrained from any type of intervention there beyond offering to extend humanitarian aid. He added, however, that “any attempt to transfer chemical weapons from Syria to Hezbollah will be considered crossing a red line and Israel will not restrain itself and will respond decisively if this happens.”