(photo credit: AP)
Middle East peace talks must be restarted to avoid a “catastrophe,”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday after meeting with
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, stepping back
from the idea that the EU should recognize a Palestinian state before
an agreement is signed.
“If there are no talks... we take the risk, the international
community, of a third intifada,” Sarkozy said at a joint news
conference with Abbas. “If we do nothing it will be a catastrophe.”
However, Sarkozy backed off of the notion of declaring a Palestinian
state before borders with Israel are defined, as suggested over the
weekend by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Kouchner himself also seemed to backtrack, co-writing an op-ed Monday
in Le Monde with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos in which
they said that Europe would “collectively recognize a Palestinian
state” at the end of the diplomatic process.
Despite US Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s efforts, the two foreign
ministers wrote in the piece, which called for greater European
involvement in the process, that the political process has not
“Europe needs to step in today and give guarantees of political and
financial security for Israelis and Palestinians to help overcome the
‘risks of peace,’” they wrote. Kouchner and Moratinos wrote that the
indirect “proximity talks” now being discussed needed to be augmented
by a timeline, and a “mechanism” that would accompany the talks and
“learn from the lessons of the past.”
The two foreign ministers said that Europe could also advance bold
“confidence-building measures” on the ground, and hold a peace
conference that could stabilize and strengthen a positive dynamic.
Israeli diplomatic officials said it was telling that the two foreign
ministers decided to come out with their program in an op-ed, and not
to include it in a statement at the end of the EU foreign ministers
meeting held Monday in Brussels. They opted for this path, one official
said, because it would be too difficult and cumbersome for them to
reach a consensus on the matter inside the EU.
Sarkozy, meanwhile, said at his press conference with Abbas, in which
the two men made a strong display of solidarity, that they agreed on
the ingredients needed to create a Palestinian state while guaranteeing
Israeli security and border security.
“Everybody knows the terms of a definitive peace accord,” Sarkozy said.
These include the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of
each, a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, land exchanges and
talks on the status of Palestinian refugees.
Abbas also seemed to dismiss the idea of recognition of statehood before the negotiations were concluded.
“Negotiations first, proclamation of a state later,” he said, before
adding that he has not excluded reaching out to the UN Security Council
if talks keep stalling.
Sarkozy said he would discuss Middle East peace negotiations with
President Barack Obama during a state visit to Washington at the end of
March. No firm date has been set.