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France says delay in Israel-Palestinian talks helps hardliners

Dec. 12, 2012 3:39 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2012 1:48 P.M.)
MARRAKECH, Morocco (Reuters) -- Israelis and Palestinians must restart peace talks quickly otherwise hardliners on both sides of the conflict will take advantage, the French foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Minister Laurent Fabius also said it was imperative that France, Britain and the United States became more directly involved in peace negotiations.

"It won't resolve itself," he said.

Talks towards ending the decades-old conflict and creating an independent Palestinian state have been stalled for more than two years over the issue of Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

France, a UN Security Council member, voted in favor of an upgrade of Palestine's United Nations status last month and has been critical of a new Israeli settlement-building drive.

Israel holds a general election in January.

"After (the poll) we have to move quickly toward negotiations because, sooner or later, this will benefit the extremists on both sides," Fabius told reporters before a conference on Syria in Morocco.

Paris will also host a donors' conference early next year to raise funds for the government of President Mahmoud Abbas, Fabius said.

The move is likely to irritate Israel, which is withholding tax revenues due to be transferred to Abbas's government until March at least in retaliation for his UN statehood campaign.

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects some $100 million a month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, money that is badly needed to pay public sector salaries.
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