Abbas in Paris: ‘Suffocating’ Palestinians back France peace push
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Abbas in Paris: ‘Suffocating’ Palestinians back France peace push

In first stop of foreign tour, PA president tells French leader that his people are suffering under occupation, settlement expansion

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and French President Francois Hollande (right), hold a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on April 15, 2016. (AFP/Dominique Faget)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and French President Francois Hollande (right), hold a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on April 15, 2016. (AFP/Dominique Faget)

The Palestinian people who are suffocating under Israeli policies fully back France’s new initiative to advance the peace process, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told French President Francois Hollande during a meeting Friday night in Paris.

France launched an effort earlier this year to host an international conference in the summer to revive peace talks. It initially vowed to recognize a Palestinian state if talks failed, but French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault later said the recognition would not be automatic.

Abbas said after the meeting that he had updated Hollande on what he called the difficult and suffocating circumstances in which the Palestinian people live, due to Israel’s occupation and settlement expansion and the shadow of a diplomatic impasse, Israel Radio reported.

The Palestinian leader set out for France on Friday, after which he was to head to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss “the evolution of the political situation in Palestine and the region,” he said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also meet with Putin in Moscow on Thursday.

French President Francois Hollande (L) embraces Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (R) after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 15, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/DOMINIQUE FAGET)
French President Francois Hollande (left) embraces Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 15, 2016. (AFP/Dominique Faget)

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the PA leader would also travel to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before flying to New York to attend meetings at the United Nations, but did not provide exact dates.

“France plays an important role in efforts to establish a fair, comprehensive and durable peace in accordance with international resolutions,” Abu Rudeineh said.

Israel in the midst of a wave of Palestinian stabbing, car-ramming, and shooting attacks that has killed 29 Israelis and 3 foreign nationals since October of last year. At least 188 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to the Israeli authorities.

Ahead of his two-week foreign tour, Abbas told AFP there was an “urgent” need for a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, and accused the US of insufficient action on the issue.

“The Security Council is a very important subject because it has now become urgent due to settlement activities and because Israel has not stopped these activities,” Abbas said, with the Palestinians currently discussing a new draft resolution at the UN Security Council on the subject.

The draft resolution, which was submitted last month, defines Israeli settlements as illegal and calls for a one-year timetable to reach a final-status agreement, according to a copy of the text posted online.

The resolution was written up in consultation with Security Council members, but will likely be stymied by a US veto.

The United States has repeatedly vetoed resolutions opposed by Israel at the UN Security Council, but there has been speculation that US President Barack Obama could change tack in the waning days of his administration.

Peace efforts have been at a complete standstill since a US initiative collapsed two years ago.

Both Abbas and Netanyahu openly expressed interest in meeting with the other over the last several weeks, but neither side has made a public move to jump-start negotiations.

AFP contributed to this report

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