French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gestures during a press conference at the Mukataa compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on June 21, 2015. .
(photo credit: ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
As a former colonial power, France retains considerable influence in the Middle East. France was, of course, one of the two principals (the other was Great Britain) responsible for dismembering the Ottoman empire. The division of Turkish-held Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine into various French- and British-administered areas flowed directly from the Sykes-Picot agreement, a secret understanding concluded during World War One, between Britain (represented by Colonel Sir Mark Sykes), and France (represented by diplomat François Georges-Picot), with the assent of Russia. The agreement's principal terms were reaffirmed by the San Remo Conference in 1920 and then ratified by the Council of the League of Nations two years later.France’s direct participation in the creation of the modern Middle East has meant that for the last hundred years it has involved itself in the politics of the region. As regards the Israeli-Palestinian situation, France has consistently defended Israel’s right to exist in security, while long advocating the creation of a Palestinian state. Any possible incompatibility between these two positions has never been acknowledged. It was certainly not referred to by former French president, François Mitterand, when he addressed Israel’s parliament in 1982.