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French consul to Jerusalem: Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains 'central issue in Middle East'

July 26, 2016 9:51 P.M. (Updated: July 28, 2016 2:38 P.M.)
French Consul General to Jerusalem Herve Magro. (Credit: French Consulate website)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- In an interview with Ma’an on Monday, French Consul General in Jerusalem Herve Magro reiterated France’s hopes for its ongoing peace initiative to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which he said remained “the central issue in the Middle East.”

“Negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel are not only suspended, but ruptured, and this is dangerous, as this rupture threatens stability in the whole region,” Magro said, adding that the Palestinian question was “still the central issue in the Middle East and should be given attention.”

“I am not saying that solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will solve all problems in the world, but the French initiative will create a dynamism which will affect all issues in the region and serve as a key to solving other issues.”

Magro went on to describe some of the important features of the French initiative, including a clear timeframe which he said would prevent Palestinians from feeling that they were headed into “endless negotiations.”

“I am not saying that France can solve in six months what the United States failed to solve in 20 years,” Magro told Ma’an, highlighting the importance of international participation as part of efforts to solve the conflict

“We want as much participation of international community as possible, in order to create an international mechanism encompassing many countries, and for that reason we proposed the French initiative,” the consul said.

When asked if a bilateral initiative proposed by Egyptian President Abd al al-Fattah al-Sisi could become a replacement for the French initiative, Magro added that the initial meeting held in Paris in June was aimed to create an international environment. “Thus, if any Arab country proposes an initiative, I have no doubt that it will be helpful for our proposal but more importantly for peace,” he said.

Mentioning France’s close relationship with Egypt, Magro said that he believed any Egyptian proposal would “support the French initiative rather than contradict it." Al-Sisi has also voiced support for the French initiative, and maintained Egypt's diplomatic efforts are run in parallel to the initiative.

While Palestinian leadership has welcomed the French initiative, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out against the French-led efforts, saying that Israel saw bilateral negotiations -- as proposed by Egypt -- with no Palestinian preconditions as the only way to reach a solution to the decades-long conflict.

However, Magro dismissed Netanyahu’s statements, saying that “Netanyahu’s rejection doesn’t affect us.”

“Whether Israel accepts the French initiative or not, that will not jeopardize the thinking mechanism seeking to create a positive environment for a solution,” he said.

“The Prime Minister can welcome al-Sisi’s proposal and reject the French initiative, but we are dealing with realities,”Magro added. “The French initiative already exists, has a timeframe, and would lead to an international summit by the end of this year.”

“Israel might know something that we don’t about ongoing initiatives France isn’t involved in, but I won’t comment on something when we don’t know what it is exactly,” the French diplomat said.

Magro nonetheless urged Israel to “realize” that an international initiative was ongoing with “the whole world headed to support it,” and that if the initiative failed, “then France will decide what to do next.”

While addressing a recent publication by the Middle East Quartet -- consisting of the US, the UN, the European Union, and Russia -- Magro said that the report “does not reflect France position, neither does it reflect the position of European countries.”

However, Magro said that the report, which has been criticized by both Palestinian and Israeli officials, did contain elements, notably regarding illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which could be relied on during peace efforts.

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