President Jacques Chirac of France condemned the "continuing colonization" of the occupied territories as a threat to the Middle East peace process after talks Wednesday with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.
"It is certain that the colonization process which is apparently continuing neither conforms to the spirit of the Oslo accord nor the spirit of peace," Chirac told reporters after the talks.
Arafat was in Paris as part of a tour of European capitals ahead of talks with Israel Sunday about the future of the Palestinian territories.
"It is now necessary that gestures of confidence are made by both sides," said Chirac, speaking alongside Arafat at the Elysee palace where the two men had held a meeting lasting 90 minutes, AFP said.
"Today, all peoples of the Middle east want peace. Everyone must recognize this and do his utmost for it. I do not doubt that it is also Barak's (Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak) intention. I am certain of it," said Chirac.
For his part, Arafat said "we are concentrating all our efforts, all our attention, to attain this peace to which we aspire, despite the current difficulties and the ambushes which are put along our path," said Arafat quoted by KUNA.
"Peace is not just an Israeli-Palestinian concern," said Arafat, "it encompasses the whole region" and "it interests the whole of the international community."
AFP said that Arafat called on the European Community and the United States to join in efforts "to push forward the peace process."
Arafat had met earlier Wednesday with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in talks, which he described as very constructive and very important discussion."
Arafat was due in the Portuguese capital Lisbon late Wednesday.
On Sunday the Palestinian authority and Israel start a third round of talks in Eilat, on Israel's Red Sea coast, aimed at finding a breakthrough on some of the most contentious issues that still divide them.
Two previous rounds in Washington made little progress, with the questions of the Palestinian state's final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees proving intractable.
Under the existing peace schedule, the two sides are supposed to have a framework "final status" agreement in place by May 13, and a definitive agreement signed by September 13.
BARAK READY TO TRANSFER ABU DIS TO PA
Israeli political sources were quoted by Haaretz as saying that Barak is determined to move forward on the Palestinian track and that in the weeks ahead he will ask the security cabinet and then the entire cabinet to approve "dramatic decisions" which will reflect "Israeli positions that are more far-reaching than in the past" with respect to the Palestinians.
Haaretz added that Barak intends to transfer soon to full Palestinian control the village of Abu Dis, which is adjacent to Jerusalem, as an "advance" on account of the third redeployment in the West Bank.
According to Haaretz, Barak is expected to bring the proposal for approval by the security cabinet next week.
The Oslo accords state that in the third redeployment Israel will transfer to the Palestinians the areas of the West Bank that are not specified military locations or areas the status of which will be decided in the permanent agreement, such as Jerusalem, Israel's external borders and the Jewish settlements - (Agencies)
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