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Israel/ Palestinian Territories – Middle East peace conference (January 15, 2017)

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault hosted an international conference on Middle East peace on January 15 in Paris, bringing together 70 countries and international organizations. President Hollande delivered a speech at the conference.

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Israel/Palestine: Understand France’s position in nine points

France considers that the conflict will only be resolved through the creation of a viable and democratic independent Palestinian State, living in peace and security alongside Israel.

Who does France support?

1. France is a friend to both Israel and Palestine.

France has strong historical, cultural and human ties with Israel. France was one of the first countries to recognize the new State and establish diplomatic relations with it, as early as 1949. For nearly 70 years, France has been advocating Israel’s right to exist and live in security, as well as its full membership of the community of sovereign nations. The bilateral relationship between France and Israel is also supported by the presence in Israel of a large French and French-speaking community, while France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community.

France has long advocated the creation of a Palestinian State. On 22 November 1974, France voted in favour of recognizing the PLO at the United Nations as an observer, reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. In 1982, François Mitterrand was the first French President to express the goal of creating a Palestinian State before the Knesset. In 2010, France raised the status of the General Delegation of Palestine in France, which became the Mission of Palestine and is led by an ambassador. In November 2012, it voted in favour of the status of non-member observer State for Palestine at the United Nations, and in September 2015 for the placing of the Palestinian flag at the UN.

2. France unreservedly condemns terrorist acts aimed at sabotaging hopes of peace.

France condemns most firmly all acts of violence and terrorism, and calls upon all parties to combat all forms of incitement to hatred. On several occasions, alongside its European partners, it called upon all parties to abstain from any action that could aggravate the situation through either incitation or provocation, and asked them to condemn any attack carried out and to rigorously respect the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force.

France is unwaveringly committed to Israel’s security, which is a key principle of its regional policy. This is why it calls upon Hamas, with which it has no contact and which is on the European list of terrorist organizations, to respect the conditions set down by the Quartet: renunciation of violence, acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist, and recognition of the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO.
France has also called upon Israel to fully respect international humanitarian law and to make “proportionate use of force”, particularly during the Gaza war in summer 2014 which led to more than 2100 casualties.

3. France condemns settlement-building, which is illegal under international law.

The building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is an illegal seizure of land which should be the subject of peace negotiations between the parties on the basis of the 1967 Lines. The building of settlements is contrary to international law (particularly the Geneva Convention IV and several United Nations Security Council resolutions), threatens the viability of the two-State solution and constitutes an obstacle to fair and sustainable peace. Between 2002 and 2014, the number of people living in Israeli settlements increased on average by 14,600 per year. Between 2004 and 2014, construction of an average 2,300 new buildings per year began in the settlements. More than 570,000 settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Concrete steps have been taken at European level to address the acceleration of settlement-building. The EU guidelines adopted in July 2013 prohibit any European funding for Israeli entities active in the settlements, from 1 January 2014 onwards. Many Member States, including France, have published recommendations warning against the financial, legal and reputational risks of doing business in the settlements. In November 2015, the European Union also adopted an “Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel” in order to inform European consumers of the origin of imported products. In November 2016, the Ministry of the Economy and Finance issued an opinion online drawing the attention of economic actors to this notice, which is a transparency measure applying existing European law.

UN Security Council resolution 2334, adopted almost unanimously by the Member States on 23 December 2016, called upon Israel to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities and upon States to distinguish between the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.

What solution does France advocate?

4. France considers that the conflict will only be resolved through the creation of a viable and democratic independent Palestinian State, living in peace and security alongside Israel.

The two-State solution is the only solution capable of addressing the legitimate aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to security, independence, recognition and dignity. With this in mind, France and its European partners have drawn up the parameters that need to guide a resolution of the conflict:

• borders based on the 1967 Lines, with agreed equivalent land swaps;
• security arrangements preserving the sovereignty of the Palestinian State and guaranteeing the security of Israel;
• a fair, equitable and negotiated solution to the refugee problem;
• an arrangement making Jerusalem the capital of both States.

5. France considers that Jerusalem needs to become the capital of both States, Israel and the future State of Palestine.

Jerusalem has been entirely controlled by Israel since 1967, when Israel captured the eastern part of the city during the Six-Day War. Pending a negotiated settlement of the conflict, and in accordance with international law, France and the rest of the international community acknowledge no sovereignty over Jerusalem. France calls for easing of tensions and, in particular, respect for the status quo concerning Holy Places. Calling the status quo into question would risk causing serious destabilization.

What is France doing?

6. France advocates urgent, renewed mobilization of the international community.

In response to the current deadlock of the peace process, France is calling for an active mobilization of the international community in order to preserve the two-State solution and spark new momentum for peace. The international players, particularly the Quartet (United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations), the permanent members of the Security Council, and European and regional partners, all have a role to play in restoring a political horizon.

7. France has launched an initiative to revive the peace process.

France is organizing a Middle East peace conference on 15 January bringing together nearly 70 States and international organizations. This conference is the opportunity to affirm that the international community remains mobilized to preserve the two-State solution and to bring about sustainable peace in the region.

This conference builds on an initiative launched by France at the 3 June meeting which some thirty States attended. After this meeting, work was begun in three areas in order to resume credible negotiations: economic incentives for the two parties if a peace agreement is reached, capacity-building of the future Palestinian State and work with Israeli and Palestinian civil societies.

This conference is an opportunity to take stock of the considerable efforts that have been made since 3 June and to present to Israelis and Palestinians the international community’s contribution to peace, particularly through incentive measures. The international community is thus showing the concrete benefit the parties can gain from a peace agreement, both politically and economically. Lastly, it is important for all the countries in the international community to pursue their efforts, aid and incentives for the two parties so that negotiations can resume.

8. France supports the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, who defend the camp of peace.

France is an active contributor to Palestine’s economic development and the consolidation of the institutions of the future Palestinian State. It devotes considerable sums (€434 million for the period 2008-2015, and nearly €40 million in 2016) to aid for Palestine, about a third of which is destined for Gaza. Palestine remains the leading beneficiary of French budgetary assistance.

9. France encourages inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

It does so, in particular, to foster the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, which will be an integral part of the Palestinian State. It supports the government of national unity under Mahmoud Abbas, which includes no minister from Hamas (placed in 2003 on the EU list of terrorist organizations) and which fulfils the three criteria set down by the Quartet: recognition of Israel, refusal of violence, and acceptance of past agreements.

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