French reconsider recognizing Palestine

Sarkozy, Kouchner stress state must be established in negotiations.

sarkozy 298 (photo credit: AP)
sarkozy 298
(photo credit: AP)
Middle East peace talks must be restarted to avoid a “catastrophe,”French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday after meeting withPalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, stepping backfrom the idea that the EU should recognize a Palestinian state beforean agreement is signed.
“If there are no talks... we take the risk, the internationalcommunity, of a third intifada,” Sarkozy said at a joint newsconference with Abbas. “If we do nothing it will be a catastrophe.”
However, Sarkozy backed off of the notion of declaring a Palestinianstate before borders with Israel are defined, as suggested over theweekend by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Kouchner himself also seemed to backtrack, co-writing an op-ed Mondayin Le Monde with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos in whichthey said that Europe would “collectively recognize a Palestinianstate” at the end of the diplomatic process.
Despite US Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s efforts, the two foreignministers wrote in the piece, which called for greater Europeaninvolvement in the process, that the political process has notsucceeded.
“Europe needs to step in today and give guarantees of political andfinancial security for Israelis and Palestinians to help overcome the‘risks of peace,’” they wrote. Kouchner and Moratinos wrote that theindirect “proximity talks” now being discussed needed to be augmentedby 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 peaceconference that could stabilize and strengthen a positive dynamic.
Israeli diplomatic officials said it was telling that the two foreignministers decided to come out with their program in an op-ed, and notto include it in a statement at the end of the EU foreign ministersmeeting held Monday in Brussels. They opted for this path, one officialsaid, because it would be too difficult and cumbersome for them toreach a consensus on the matter inside the EU.
Sarkozy, meanwhile, said at his press conference with Abbas, in whichthe two men made a strong display of solidarity, that they agreed onthe ingredients needed to create a Palestinian state while guaranteeingIsraeli 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 ofeach, a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, land exchanges andtalks 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, beforeadding that he has not excluded reaching out to the UN Security Councilif talks keep stalling.
Sarkozy said he would discuss Middle East peace negotiations withPresident Barack Obama during a state visit to Washington at the end ofMarch. No firm date has been set.