Stop Settlements, Sarkozy Tells Israel

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – While offering his country as a potential Middle East peace broker French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Monday, June 23, for a halt to Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and accepting a divided occupied East Jerusalem.
"There can be no peace without stopping settlement," Sarkozy told Israeli MPs in a speech at the Knesset, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

In his three-day state visit to Israel, his first since he was elected president, Sarkozy said that without freezing settlements, this there would be no lasting peace in the Middle East.

"There is a proposal backed by many members of your Knesset for the adoption of a law that would encourage settlers to leave the West Bank in exchange for compensation and relocation in Israel," he said.

The settlement activities have been one of the main obstacles to peace process.

Israel is pushing ahead with plans to build hundreds more homes in the occupied West Bank, infuriating Palestinians and drawing international criticism.

The international community considers all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.

Sarkozy also stressed that a lasting peace require the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel with both sharing Jerusalem as their capital.

"There can be no peace without recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of two states and the guarantee of freedom of access to the holy places for all religions."

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the six-day 1967 war before annexing and declaring it part of its eternal undivided capital, a claim not recognized by the UN or the world community.

The holy city is home to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which includes Islam’s third holiest shrine Al-Aqsa Mosque, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Palestinians insist the holy city will be the capital of their future state.


Sarkozy also presented himself as a possible broker for the ever-elusive quest for Middle East peace.

"I ask you to trust us because we want to help you," Sarkozy told the Israeli MPs.

"France is ready to provide its guarantee, ready to mobilize its diplomatic service, its resources, its soldiers," he affirmed.

"You can trust France."

The French leader, whose country would take over the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency on July 1, voiced preparedness to offer all guarantees to push the peace process ahead.

"You must know you can count on Europe to help you move toward a final accord," he said.

Sarkozy will travel to the West Bank on Tuesday to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ahead of the talks, the Palestinian leadership applauded Sarkozy’s remarks int eh Knesset.

"The positions expressed by President Sarkozy reflect the French support for the Palestinian cause in seeking to reach a peaceful settlement in the region," Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Sarkozy is the first French president to visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian land in almost 12 years.

A Highly-placed Palestinian source told last month that the French President is planning to unveil an initiative to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that would not exclude Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Breaking with the US-spearheaded isolation policy, France confirmed last month holding contacts with Hamas leadership.

( and news agencies)

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