Macron chides Ne­tanyahu on set­tle­ments, urges new Mideast talks

Paris urges Is­rael on new Mideast talks

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron told Is­rael’s vis­it­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu yes­ter­day that Paris op­poses Is­rael’s ex­pan­sion of set­tle­ments in oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory as he urged fresh Mid­dle East peace talks. Stress­ing that in­ter­na­tional law should be “re­spected by all”, Macron said: “I am think­ing here of (Is­rael’s) con­tin­ued build­ing” in oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory.

Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans should be able “to live side by side within se­cure and rec­og­nized bor­ders with Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal”, Macron said af­ter his first of­fi­cial talks with Ne­tanyahu. “I hope ev­ery­thing will be done for ne­go­ti­a­tions to move for­ward,” he said. Talks be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans have been at a stand­still since the fail­ure of US me­di­a­tion in the spring of 2014. Macron, elected in May, ap­pears to be fol­low­ing the proac­tive line taken by his So­cial­ist pre­de­ces­sor Fran­cois Hol­lande, whose ef­forts to mo­bi­lize the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity on the peace process an­gered Is­rael.

The French leader met Pales­tinian leader Mah­mud Ab­bas on Wed­nes­day, when he said he backed a two-state so­lu­tion and op­posed Is­raeli set­tle­ments. “France has al­ways con­demned the con­tin­u­a­tion of set­tle­ment build­ing, which is il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law and has reached an un­prece­dented level since the be­gin­ning of the year,” he said in his first pub­lic re­marks on the con­flict since tak­ing of­fice.

The United Na­tions re­ported in June that Is­rael had an­nounced a sub­stan­tial in­crease in set­tle­ments in the past three months de­spite a UN res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing a halt to the Jewish out­posts. Ear­lier yes­ter­day, Macron and Ne­tanyahu un­der­scored their two coun­tries’ long­stand­ing friend­ship as they marked the 75th an­niver­sary of a no­to­ri­ous 1942 roundup of 13,000 Jews to be sent to Nazi death camps. Ne­tanyahu was the first Is­raeli prime min­is­ter to at­tend a Vel d’Hiv com­mem­o­ra­tion, and he said the in­vi­ta­tion was a “very, very strong ges­ture”. Macron ad­dressed Ne­tanyahu as “dear Bibi” and called “anti-Zion­ism” a new form of anti-Semitism. Ne­tanyahu’s pres­ence at the event drew fire from some groups, no­tably the Union of French Jews for Peace, which ac­cused the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment of “usurp­ing the mem­ory of the vic­tims of Nazism to make peo­ple be­lieve that Is­rael rep­re­sents all the world’s Jews”.

Vig­i­lance on Iran

Dur­ing their talks af­ter­wards, Macron as­sured Ne­tanyahu of his “vig­i­lance” re­gard­ing the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord reached by Western pow­ers with Is­rael’s arch-en­emy Iran. Ne­tanyahu was a vo­cal op­po­nent of the deal, which saw sanc­tions against Iran eased in re­turn for curbs on its nu­clear pro­gram. The French pres­i­dency said Sun­day’s meet­ing would be an oc­ca­sion to “sig­nal our lack of com­pla­cency to­wards Iran”.

Since tak­ing of­fice, Macron has drawn praise for his bal­anced but firm han­dling of en­coun­ters with world lead­ers such as US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his Rus­sian op­po­site num­ber Vladimir Putin.

Macron rolled out the red car­pet for Trump on Fri­day when he was guest of honor for France’s Bastille Day fes­tiv­i­ties. The French leader crit­i­cized Trump over his re­nun­ci­a­tion of the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, but he stressed their close co­op­er­a­tion against the Is­lamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Sim­i­larly with Putin, whom Macron hosted at the sump­tu­ous Ver­sailles palace in May, the French leader stood firm on French op­po­si­tion to Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine in 2014. But he said the re­moval of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad-Moscow’s chief ally in the Mid­dle East-was not a pre­req­ui­site to a so­lu­tion to the six-year-old con­flict in Syria.—AFP

PARIS: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, right, and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, left, give a joint press con­fer­ence at the El­y­see Palace in Paris. — AFP

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