French president urges Israel to stop settlement construction

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Visiting French President Francois Hollande on Monday called upon Israel here to stop its construction in the West Bank settlements in order to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

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“The future Palestinian state should be built on a strong basis, it should be a sustainable country. Therefore, the settlements must stop because this doesn’t allow the building of a second state,” Hollande said in a speech at the Israeli Knesset (parliament) on Monday evening.

“In addition, there should be economic gestures toward the Palestinians… The citizens will know that peace brings prosperity and flourishing,” the president added.

Hollande, who mainly focused on the issue of the Iranian nuclear program in his speeches in Jerusalem on Sunday, said France is willing to escort the Israelis during their negotiations with the Palestinians.

“France has good ties with the Arab states and we’re willing to use that trust in order to push them to back the negotiations and see through to their peace initiative so that both sides could move along in the process,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also talked about the peace talks with the Palestinians and invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come and speak at the Knesset.

“I have said in this building in the past that I accept the two states for two peoples solution and we’re striving to reach for a deal to end the conflict along with security arrangements,” Netanyahu said.

“I call upon Abbas from here to come to Jerusalem. I’ll come to Ramallah. Let’s break this stalemate in talks. Come to the Knesset and on this stage acknowledge Israel as the State of Jewish people, ” the prime minister added.

The Knesset’s opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) also spoke during the celebratory reception and thanked Hollande for France’s stance on the Iranian nuclear program.

“There’s no division here that Iran shouldn’t have the ability to produce nuclear weapons,” Yachimovich said.

“The Labor party’s way is to prefer diplomacy over war. We need effective diplomacy, in which all options are literally on the table,” she added, thanking Hollande for his strong stance expressed by his foreign minister at the talks in Geneva.

She also talked about peace talks with the Palestinians, stating the labor party is not pleased by the rate and the way the negotiations are held and reiterated her position that if Netanyahu is heading toward a substantiative deal the party would offer him a significant safety net. PNA

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