France won’t propose a United Nations Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood if it is certain the United States will veto it, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday. The French top diplomat, however, also suggested that Washington might not make use of its veto right.
At a press conference immediately following his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Fabius said Paris did not mean to impose a solution. He said he detected general willingness on both sides to resume negotiations, and called for the creation of an international monitoring mechanism — which would, for the first time, include Arab states — to facilitate the process.
“It doesn’t make any sense to propose a resolution if it will clash on a veto,” said Fabius, regarding Paris’s plan to ask the Security Council to call for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967-lines. “It also doesn’t serve any purpose to have a vote on a resolution if it isn’t applied. The resolution is a means to an end, not an end in itself.”
Later, however, Fabius noted that “our American friends have made statements which are maybe more open [to a Security Council resolution on Palestine] than before.”
Since Netanyahu cast doubt on his intention to agree to the creation of a Palestinian state, in an interview before the March Knesset elections — comments he retracted following his reelection — the US administration has indicated that it might not veto such a resolution, but has stopped short of endorsing the French draft.
The absence of any progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict calls for urgent action, Fabius stated. “Since it is not solved, it could well lead to tensions and at any given moment in this tense region it could lead to an explosion,” he added. “Therefore, France wants to help, even if it’s difficult, to find a solution. France won’t give up.”
A UN resolution cannot replace bilateral negotiations, he emphasized, rebutting Netanyahu’s rejection earlier Sunday of what he called a “diktat” from the international community. “Peace,” Netanyahu said at their meeting, “will only come from direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions. It will not come from UN resolutions that are sought to be imposed from the outside.”
At his press conference, Fabius also suggested the creation of an “international monitoring committee” to help Israelis and Palestinians get back to the negotiating table and see their talks through to fruition.
“Who will it consist of? The Arabs, certainly, as the Arabs so far have not been part of the Middle East Quartet, although they could make very significant contributions,” he said. Furthermore, the five permanent members of the Security Council — the US, France, the UK, Britain, China and Russia — as well as other European partners and “other countries that have something to contribute,” he explained. “We’re in need of an international accompaniment that allows [the two sides] to take the last few meters. Because history has shown that the governments themselves have a difficult time to make them, because the final moments are often the most difficult.”
Fabius disputed the suggestion that France wants to go it alone or have the Europeans or the UN take the lead on the peace process. “We consider — as Frenchmen, as Europeans — that the US has played, is playing, and will play a very important role in the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian question,” he continued.
The French foreign minister further said that he understood, from Netanyahu, that Israel is indeed having secret back-channel talks with Hamas, but they primarily deal with efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Asked by The Times of Israel about France’s position on Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Fabius said that, in international law, states are recognized but not defined or classified in such a way. But he avoided taking a clear position on the matter. And neither did he say whether the potential French Security Council resolution would mention Israel as the Jewish state, merely stating that this issue needs to be discussed. “There are formulas that could be found,” he claimed.
While Netanyahu has said he is willing to enter negotiations without preconditions, he insists that any final peace deal has to include recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a Jewish state.
“I find it frankly inconceivable that while the Palestinians expect us to recognize a Palestinian nation-state, they refuse to accord us the same privilege, recognizing a Jewish nation-state,” Netanyahu told Fabius Sunday.