Egypt has major role to play in Middle East situation
Visit to Egypt/Israeli-Palestinian peace process – Press conference given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)
Cairo, 9 March 2016
THE MINISTER – (…) I met President al-Sisi this morning. We talked about the issues of common interest and are going to continue preparing François Hollande’s visit to Egypt in the middle of April. I also met my counterpart Sameh Shoukry, whom I had the pleasure of seeing in Munich, the day after I took office. (…)
Another important purpose of my visit was to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is particularly dangerous. There’s an increase in violence, which is constantly on the rise with the continued settlement activity and the total deadlock in the political negotiations. The international community must mobilize to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to a dialogue of peace. In this respect, Egypt has a major role to play. It’s one of the very great Arab countries. As you pointed out, Minister, you have a seat on the Security Council. We value the support Egypt is lending to the French initiative of organizing an international conference. From the outset, on this issue in particular, our cooperation has been exceptional, as we’ve both said.
This evening we’re going to have a meeting with the Arab League’s select committee. I thank you for facilitating this meeting. Our goal is simple: to marshal the international community’s support for the only solution possible – that of two states; to invite the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume the peace negotiations to end the current vicious circle. You know what motivates us in this matter. As I’ve said, the apparent status quo reflects a sharp deterioration in the situation on the ground: settlement activity, growing exasperation from people, deep frustration and a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This initiative is essential in our view. It’s a way of averting the explosion. Against this background, the international community must shoulder its responsibilities and convince the parties to resume the negotiations. (…)
Q. – (on the date of the international conference)
THE MINISTER – We haven’t yet set a date, but we’ll have one goal: to begin this process very soon, the aim being to hold the conference between now and the summer if the conditions are met. I’ve appointed a special envoy from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, M. Pierre Vimont, who is accompanying me here and is going to visit various partners, firstly in Israel and Palestine, and who will meet the leaders of the region’s various countries and will also visit the United States.
We’re also leading consultations with the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the foreign ministers of Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy. We’ll discuss several subjects, including Libya, but also the Middle East peace process, which will be on the agenda of Monday’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
Q. – Your predecessor declared in January that if the negotiations with a view to holding the international conference were to fail, there would be automatic recognition of the Palestinian State. Is this your position?
THE MINISTER – There’s nothing automatic. We must first get back to the negotiations and outline our initiative to these partners; so that’s the first stage. There’s no precondition. What we want, and this is what we’re committed to and determined to do, is for a political process to resume, negotiations to relaunch the peace process, and this is our priority. So we’ll do everything to create a climate which favours the relaunch of this process. (…)./.