French FM: Paris will recognize Palestinian state if peace efforts fail

Laurent Fabius says Paris working with partners on a "final" diplomatic push to overcome the impasse between Israelis and Palestinians.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius  (photo credit: REUTERS)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
(photo credit: REUTERS)
France is ready to recognize Palestine as a state if peace talks are not revived, its Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in advance of Tuesday’s non-binding parliamentary vote on the matter in Paris.
“If this final effort to reach a negotiated solution fails, then France will have to do what it takes by recognizing without delay the Palestinian state,” Fabius told the National Assembly during a debate on the matter Friday. “We are ready for this.
The parliamentary vote slated for Tuesday follows non-binding votes in the British, Irish and Spanish parliaments over the past two months to recognize Palestine as a state.
France has already voted in the UN General Assembly in 2012 to upgrade the Palestinian status at the United Nations to that of a non-member state. It also voted in 2011 to include Palestine as a member state of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Fabius told the National Assembly the government wanted to increase its involvement in the international effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
France is working together with Britain and Germany on the text of a UN Security Council resolution to relaunch and conclude negotiations within two years. That resolution is separate from the text the Palestinian Authority – together with Jordan – plans to bring to the council with a similar time frame.
“At the United Nations, we are working with our partners to try to have a resolution adopted by the Security Council in order to relaunch the negotiations and to bring them to a conclusion,” Fabius said on Friday. “A two-year time frame is often mentioned for that purpose. The French government agrees with this duration.”
The foreign minister also echoed statements to the media that French President Francois Hollande made about French plans for an international peace conference on the matter.
“France is calling for the creation of a collective effort to serve peace,” he said. “Experience has taught us that Israelis and Palestinians cannot reach a conclusion by themselves.”
The peace process needs external support beyond what the US has offered, Fabius said.
“France wants to bring together the European Union, the Arab League, the permanent members of the Security Council – which includes the United States – in a collective mobilization for peace in the Middle East,” he said.
Fabius told the National Assembly that in the past his government had supported negotiations over unilateral statehood recognition for Palestine, because it does not believe in “illusionary” steps that lead only to a “virtual” state.
“After 25 years of ‘peace process’ without any result, we cannot simply accept an illusory recognition that would not have any concrete effect,” he said. It is preferable, he said, for a Palestinian state to come about through direct negotiations with Israel. But over time, such talks have become a way to avoid recognition, he added.
“In other words, we support negotiations but we refuse to let them become a way of managing an unfair and unbearable status quo,” Fabius said. The process of achieving a two-state solution must be changed, he said, adding that an imposed time frame is one such option.
“We have to set up a time frame because without any time frame, how can we convince anyone that it will not be an umpteenth process without any possible ending?” Fabius said.
The foreign minister stopped short of endorsing the parliamentary vote, explaining that the government wanted to try a few more options first, including setting a timeline for a negotiated settlement.
Still, Fabius said, a vote in support of Palestine as a state was not a vote against Israel, particularly since the greatest danger is the status quo.
“A status quo, which in fact threatens the two-state solution, is out of question,” he said. “Giving up on Israel’s security is out of question. Importing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in our country is out of question.
“Recognition of the State of Palestine is necessary to ensure sustainably the development and the security of Israel,” he continued. “It should therefore logically be supported by all friends of Israel. Reversely, we think being a friend of Israel does not mean being an enemy of Palestine. The meeting point is the pursuit of peace, which implies recognizing the Palestinian state in the most efficient time frame and method in order to serve peace. On this steep track, we will not spare our efforts. We know as much as you do that time is running out for those who sincerely want peace.”
Reuters contributed to this report.