Israeli-Palestinian peace vital for France, Europe – Valls

PARIS, May 24 (KUNA) — Achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians is vital for France and for Europe, whose “destiny is being played out” in the region, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Tuesday.
Speaking on “Europe 1” radio from Israel, where he is on an official visit, Valls said he had discussed the moribund peace process with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and French efforts to get a renewed dialogue and negotiations.
Valls will travel later Tuesday to meet senior Palestinian officials, but will not see President Mahmoud Abbas, who is travelling abroad.
The French Prime Minister was briefing Israelis and Palestinians on a ministerial meeting that is scheduled for June 3 in Paris and which aims to examine ways to get the two protagonists back to the negotiating table.
The meeting will bring ministers from the members of the UN Security Council, the Arab region and representatives of the Mideast Quartet, the European Union and the UN Secretariat.
Valls said that in addition to the United States, Russia, Britain, China and host-country France, ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Germany and Italy are among those expected, although the list is yet to be finalised.
The talks are “about the future of peace (which is) indispensable between Israelis and Palestinians,” Valls remarked.
“France has a role to play. France is listened to (and) there are expectations for the French initiative,” he added.
Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives will attend the talks which aim “to discuss conditions and a framework” to get the peace process back on track and arrive at “direct dialogue” between the two parties, who have been disenchanted with the process for years.
It would be “dramatic,” he said, if the Paris meeting in 10 days’ time produced nothing, the French Prime Minister warned, pointing to the growing violence and extremism on both sides.
“Thanks to France, we can move forward,” he added.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, has suggested direct dialogue with the Palestinians without going through the Paris process, but France is eager to have as broad an involvement as possible in future peace negotiations to increase the pressure on the parties.
“Israel is aware it will have to dialogue with Arab countries,” Valls stated, noting that stability in the region was in the interest of all countries and projects to be developed in the areas of “water, energy, sciences, economy and education” would best be undertaken on a regional cooperation basis, but this needs stability.
“France and Europe have an interest in this stability,” he observed, adding that cooperation is needed to fight extremism and terrorism.
He pointed to the compatibility between working for peace and economic development, but stressed peace was necessary to be able to do this.
“We can work for peace and for our economy,” he stressed, noting that on this trip to the region he was accompanied by 100 companies to explore and further develop ties. He said he expects to sign a number of agreements with the Palestinian side later on Tuesday and has already concluded some deals with the Israelis.
Valls underlined his role as an “honest broker” in the peace initiative.
“I am a friend of the Palestinians,” he said, before adding that this was not in contradiction to his publicly-professed friendship for Israel. (end) jk.hb

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