France: Israelis, Palestinians must Do all Possible to Reach Accord
France on Thursday urged Israelis and Palestinians to show political courage and do everything within their power to reach a Middle East peace accord.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine called on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to "find the political courage to go as far as possible to achieve a political accord."
Peace hinged on the latest proposals by President Bill Clinton, the minister told the French weekly Temoignage Chretien.
Clinton had developed good personal relations with Palestinian leaders, thereby enhancing US influence on the process, Vedrine said.
But he stressed: "Only the Palestinians and the Israelis will make the strategic choices. No one else can do it for them."
"The election of George W. Bush will change nothing at this stage," Vedrine said.
"But there is a risk of months passing until the new administration develops a clear policy," he warned.
France has already urged the Palestinians and Israel to accept US peace proposals, saying that although imperfect, they are the best that could be achieved.
"Of course the proposals that are on the table are part of a framework that is not perfect but is there today a viable alternative?" a foreign ministry spokesman said in December.
Arafat, after meeting Clinton in Washington this week, has accepted US suggestions for 10 days of immediate intensive negotiations with Israel, under the auspices of the US.
Clinton has proposed giving Palestinians control of the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, while the two sides would share control of the disputed holy site known to the Israelis as Temple Mount and to Arabs as the Noble Sanctuary.
The plan also provides for Palestinian control over 95 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, with a land swap to cater for Jewish settlers.
However, the Palestinians will be required to waive the right of return of refugees who fled Israel in the wake of the creation of the Jewish state in 1948 and their descendants -- PARIS (AFP)