View Full Version : Israel's Peres Welcomed To France, Warned On Settlements

03-11-2008, 08:39 AM
Israel's Peres welcomed to France, warned on settlements


16 hours ago

PARIS (AFP) — Israeli President Shimon Peres began a state visit on Monday seeking warmer ties with France, despite his host Nicolas Sarkozy calling for a halt to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

"As a friend, I say to you that the Israel's security depends on stopping the settlements," Sarkozy said, according to the French president's spokesman David Martinon.

France joined the United States and other countries Monday in warning the Israelis after they unveiled plans for a new settlement in annexed east Jerusalem that they could scupper the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Sarkozy also assured his Israeli guest that "the security of Israel is not in question and France will always be at Israel's side," Martinon said.

Peres is the first foreign leader to be treated to a state visit by Sarkozy, who is seen as friendlier towards Israel than his predecessor Jacques Chirac and has moved toward closer relations with the United States, Israel's strongest ally.

The Israeli president, who will spend five days in France, called France " a true friend of the Jewish people, since the Holocaust, and an honest and true friend of the state of Israel since its creation."

After talks between the two leaders, Martinon said Sarkozy told Peres he was convinced that "the best guarantee for Israel's security is the creation of a modern Palestinian state, democratic and viable before the end of 2008."

The project for 400 homes in the mainly Arab eastern part of Jerusalem followed on the heels of plans to build hundreds of new housing units in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians have said Israel's settlement activity would shatter efforts to relaunch the peace process that has been largely stagnant since it was revived at a US-hosted conference in late November.

On another major issue, Iran, Peres told reporters after his talks with Sarkozy that the two leaders hold the same view that Tehran represents the "greatest danger" to world security.

"He like us agrees that Iran is the greatest danger threatening us today," Peres said, calling the Islamic republic a "center for terrorism" and suspected of pursuing a nuclear programme to build an atomic bomb, a charge that Tehran denies.

The Israeli leader's schedule on Monday included a stop at a Paris synagogue to attend a ceremony for the eight students killed in an attack last week by a Palestinian gunman on a Jewish religious school in west Jerusalem.

Peres was also honoured Monday night at a state dinner at the Elysee palace.

The Israeli leader on Tuesday will meet with Prime Minister Francois Fillon and parliament leaders before travelling to Lyon on Wednesday to visit a centre that traces the history of the French Resistance and Jewish deportations during World War II.

On Thursday, he will help inaugurate the Paris book fair, which runs to March 19 and will highlight Hebrew literature on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation.

Several Muslim countries and writers' associations have said they would boycott the fair after organisers announced that 39 Israeli writers were being invited to mark the occasion.