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French president insists it’s urgent to resume Mideast peace process, or risk ‘catastrophe’ – Metro US

French president insists it’s urgent to resume Mideast peace process, or risk ‘catastrophe’

PARIS, France – Middle East peace talks must be restarted to avoid a “catastrophe,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday, adding that he and visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has discussed a new initiative for the region.

However, Sarkozy backed off the notion of declaring a Palestinian state before borders with Israel are defined, as suggested by France’s foreign minister.

“We think the end of discussions makes the bed of extremists,” Sarkozy said at a joint news conference with Abbas. “If there are no talks …. we take the risk, the international community, of a third Intifada.”

“If we do nothing it will be a catastrophe,” he added.

The French and Palestinian leaders made a strong display of solidarity before the media, saying they agreed on the ingredients needed to create a Palestinian state while guaranteeing Israeli security and border security.

“Everybody knows the terms of a definitive peace accord,” Sarkozy said.

These include the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of each, a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, land exchanges and talks on the status of Palestinian refugees.

He declined to elaborate on the initiative with Abbas.

Over the weekend, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested declaring a Palestinian state before borders with Israel are defined as a way of forcing Israel into meaningful negotiations.

But Sarkozy backed away from such an approach.

In the daily Le Monde, Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos suggested that the European Union take “bold confidence measures” for both Israel and Palestinians to jump-start talks on final status like borders and Jerusalem. Then an EU-organized peace summit could help move the region toward a definitive peace and Europe would collectively recognize the Palestinian state.

The Palestinian president was less dismissive of a third way.

“Negotiations first, proclamation of a state later,” Abbas said before adding that he has not excluded reaching out to the U.N. Security Council if talks keep stalling.

Sarkozy said he would discuss Middle East peace negotiations with President Barack Obama during a state visit to Washington at the end of March. No firm date has been set.

Abbas’ Paris visit appeared aimed in part at directing the international focus away from Iran and the nuclear issue that has dominated Western attention and back to the deadlocked peace talks.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke off in late 2008 mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, including in east Jerusalem. Israel committed to a full settlement freeze under a 2003 peace plan but did not meet that obligation.

The Palestinians contend there is no point in negotiating while Israel expands settlements.

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