French President Francois Hollande on Monday reiterated his country’s commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and that France was prepared to play a useful role in Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Speaking to reporters at a meet and greet at Elysee Palace, Hollande said the US Senate would “squash” the Iranians with sanctions if the Islamic Republic continues to evade negotiations with the West, according to Israel Radio. An Iranian delegation left expert-level talks abruptly last week, after news broke that the US was targeting additional businesses and individuals who had violated existing sanctions.
The US Congress has been mulling the expansion of sanctions against Iran despite an interim deal reached last month. That deal, which has yet to be fully implemented, provided for an easing of crippling sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing its nuclear program in place and stopping uranium enrichment beyond 3.5%.
Hollande also expressed his commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying that France was ready to play a useful role in the current round of negotiations which began in July.
The US-brokered talks are scheduled to last nine months, with the goal of reaching an agreement within that time frame. Lately, the talks — which have largely been subject to a media blackout as agreed to by the parties — have been heavily rumored to have reached a standstill. Visiting the region last week, however, US Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that existing reports were inaccurate, saying that “the people who really know what’s going on” in the negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides on a permanent accord “aren’t talking about it.”
The European Union announced on Monday that it is ready to provide Israelis and Palestinians with “unprecedented” financial, political and security assistance and a significant upgrade in ties if the sides reach a peace agreement.
The promised package, which includes upgrading bilateral relations to a so-called “Special Privileged Partnership,” can be understood as a major incentive to prod Israeli and Palestinian leaders into signing a final-status deal. Israeli officials reacted tepidly, if not cynically, to the plan, saying that as long as it does not include concrete proposals, neither side will rush to amend its positions to overcome the current stalemate in negotiations.
“These are empty words, meaningless generalities. The offer, the way it looks now, has no concrete content at all and seems somewhat unrealistic,” an Israeli diplomatic official told The Times of Israel. “If they really wanted to make their mark on the peace process they would have come up with something a bit more tangible.”
The offer was made by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, which adopted the conclusions in Brussels.
“The EU will provide an unprecedented package of European political, economic and security support to both parties in the context of a final status agreement,” a statement from the council read. “In the event of a final peace agreement the European Union will offer Israel and the future state of Palestine a Special Privileged Partnership including increased access to the European markets, closer cultural and scientific links, facilitation of trade and investments as well as promotion of business to business relations.”
The EU would also offer both states “enhanced political dialogue and security cooperation,” the foreign ministers declared.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.