Kuwait News Agency (kuna)
June 24, 2008 - 4:33pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Tuesday for more active support by the European Union (EU) for the Middle Eastern peace process.

Speaking at a joint press conference with French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Bethlehem, he said the peace process required a "strong push" by the international community, and by the EU, whose rotating presidency was currently held by France.

Abbas added, "We want the EU to have an effective political role, besides its economic one." He expressed his content with the French stance as to many of the issues, as affirmed by the speech Sarkozy delivered before the Knesset yesterday.

"Your (France's) stances reflect true friendship and a president who is keen on the region's interests ... your courage is the key to resolving the conflict, and courage is what we need to create a bright future," he said.

Abbas called on France to exert greater efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, lauding France's economic role and its support for peace.

On his part, Sarkozy said Israel's security was non-negotiable, adding that the establishment of a Palestinian state was a priority for France.

Israel's security will be achieved once the Palestinians are allowed to establish their state, he said, stressing that France did not apply double-standards and supported both the establishment of the Palestinian state and also the Israeli side.

He underscored the need to stop the building of settlements in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, adding that France would not be a by-stander as to the peace process and would apply economic and diplomatic means to bring peace to the region.

Moreover, Sarkozy said France would not deal with Hamas unless it changed its ways -- alluding to the movement's acknowledgment of Israel.

The president said he saw the separating wall and barricades that were built, and demanded that Israel to stop such actions because the Jewish state's security could only be achieved through the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Furthermore, he said peace required economic development.

The two presidents had signed earlier today an agreement for the establishment of an industrial zone in Bethlehem, worth USD 21 million.

Sarkozy had arrived in Bethlehem this afternoon to hold talks with Abbas at the Presidential Palace.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017