Paris comes out against Swedish plan

French envoy to Post

Christophe Bigot 248.88 (photo credit: )
Christophe Bigot 248.88
(photo credit: )
France has "several strong reservations" about a draft resolution on the Middle East put forward by Sweden that would recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "Let us be clear the text is not an EU text; it is a Swedish proposal looking for agreement by the 27 EU members of the Council of Foreign Affairs next Tuesday," Bigot said of the document, which has raised Jerusalem's ire for a number of reasons, primarily because of its pre-judging negotiations on Jerusalem and its reference in the document to "Palestine." The EU's ambassadors in Brussels are scheduled to meet Thursday, along with EU security experts, to further discuss the text. Israel, as part of its diplomatic efforts to block acceptance of the document, is in contact with the US, hoping that it will explain to key EU states that the text would only make moving the diplomatic process forward even more difficult than it already is. "This text undermines efforts to start a process because it sends a message to the Palestinians that they don't need to go to negotiations, but can just sit back and wait for documents like these that pre-judge things and give them what they want," a senior government official said. Bigot, in an interview that will appear in full in Friday's Post, said that France expressed its reservations on the text for two reasons. "First, it should take into account the positive move of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu regarding the partial freeze on settlement construction. We should welcome such a move even if it does not meet all our expectations," he said. "And secondly, we consider that we want to promote the re-launching of the peace process. These should be the two issues that should mainly be dealt within the statement." Senior Israeli officials complained that the document accepted the Palestinian narrative, without discussing any of Israel's concerns, such as security, Palestinian refugees, demilitarization of a future Palestinian state, and the need for such a state to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Israel was also frustrated that the document did not give Netanyahu much credit for his moratorium on housing starts in the settlements. According to Bigot, "several" of the EU states had "a series of remarks and observations" on the Swedish proposal. "I'm pretty sure that the text that will be agreed by next Tuesday will be different from the text proposed by Sweden last Friday," he said. Bigot, asked what France or the EU could do to push Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiations, said: "We are not going to pressure someone in a delicate position. It is not about pressure. To the contrary, we can give him some help, guarantees, reassure him and look at the framework of the negotiations." As to what kind of help might be offered, Bigot hinted at the possibility of EU forces in the West Bank. "The EU has said several times we are willing to provide security guarantees," he said. "If there is any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and if they are interested and willing [to go] in that direction, the EU has said repeatedly we are willing to provide security guarantees in the West Bank - that would help both the Israelis and the Palestinians." Asked if that meant EU troops on the West Bank border or patrolling in Nablus, Bigot said, "How it will work depends on the agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, and what they are looking for. "There are several options between a minimalist observation mission, to a maximalist NATO force. This really depends on the two parties. We are not going to impose on them something. It is up to them, basically."