Jerusalem: There's no crisis with France

Jerusalem Theres no cr

Despite deep disappointment with France and Britain because of their failure to vote against the Goldstone Commission report in the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's cancellation of a scheduled visit here in a few days was not related to the report, both Israeli and French officials said Wednesday. However, one Israeli official said, even if the cancellation was not due to the report, Kouchner did get somewhat of a cold shoulder from Netanyahu, who gave indications he might not be able to meet him. In addition to the Goldstone Report, Israel was not pleased that Kouchner wanted to go from Israel to Gaza to visit a hospital France is helping to rehabilitate, but which Israel believes is under Hamas control. The same official, however, said that although these issues were temporary irritants, they were not the cause for the cancellation of the visit. Rather, he said, the reason for the cancellation genuinely had to do with scheduling problems. A spokeswoman at the French embassy said that originally Kouchner had planned to embark on a regional trip that would have taken him to Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon. However, she said, because of a scheduling glitch - Kouchner needed to attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels early next week - it was decided to shorten the trip, and have him go only to Lebanon, and to drop Israel, the PA, and Syria from the agenda. Had Kouchner wanted to cancel the trip to Israel because of problems with the prime minister, it was pointed out, he would not have also cancelled the trip to Syria. The Kouchner visit will probably now take place in mid-November, she said. A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said that Israel and France have a "very good relationship," and that there was a "strong personal relationship" between Netanyahu and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "Obviously we were disappointed by the Goldstone issue," the official said, "but the relations with France are strong, and becoming stronger."