French presidential candidate Segolene Royal met Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after attempts he made to form a more moderate national unity government broken down. Royal has been touring the Middle East to prove to voters at home that she is credible in international affairs. The culmination of her trip came Sunday, with talks with Abbas in Gaza City and a meeting scheduled later with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Tel Aviv. Abbas, who had announced Thursday that talks to form a unity government with the radical Islamic group Hamas had failed, expressed hope Sunday for restarting them. The talks were aimed at ending a crippling foreign aid boycott against the Hamas-led government.
Royal slams Israel-Nazi comparison
"The efforts at present have stopped, but we must preserve hope," Abbas said. He added: "The question is not a disagreement on positions or posts, but on principle. We want a government that is able to lift the siege on the Palestinian people."
Royal said a unity government "would be a substantial process toward recognizing the principles of the Quartet," the four international players trying to promote Middle East peace - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
Royal's trip began Thursday in Lebanon. After a stopover in Jordan on Saturday night, she arrived in Gaza a week after a fragile truce ending five months of violence took effect on the Gaza-Israel border.
She has not set up any meetings with Hamas representatives, her entourage said, though she had not ruled out that possibility.
Royal has supported resumed aid to the Palestinians, and urged a greater European role in Middle East peacemaking. Later she was to see Olmert as well as Foreign Minister Tzipi Lipni in Tel Aviv.
Tensions have risen between France and Israel in recent weeks over Israeli flyovers in southern Lebanon. French peacekeeping troops were seconds away from firing on Israeli warplanes in one incident in October.