French foreign minister says Israeli settlements should stop

Other News Materials 16 February 2008 22:34 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Saturday his country opposes Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian areas, stressing that there cannot be a peace process while settlement activities continue.

Kouchner was speaking at a press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after a one-hour meeting at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

"There should be a viable and democratic Palestinian state that can live side-by-side with Israel," said Kouchner. "We insist on this state, which will be important for the security of Israel because without a Palestinian state there will not be security for Israel."

"We strongly call for a halt to all settlement activities, just as the Israeli prime minister has promised," added the French minister, who said he has made this position very clear and will repeat it again to Israeli officials when he meets them on Sunday.

"We are opposed to settlement activities because there cannot be progress in the peace process if settlements continue," he said.

Abbas said negotiations with Israel have already started "over all final status issues and we hope the negotiations can continue in good pace."

Kouchner, on the other hand, thought the peace process "has its ups and downs, and now it is down." He said, "We have to wait and see, but clearly it is slowing."

The French minister earlier visited Bethlehem, where he visited French-backed institutions and also met with Palestinian activists in Bethlehem and Ramallah.